The European Union lifted its year-long import ban on herring and mackerel from the Faroe Islands on Monday, ending a dispute over alleged over-fishing in the northern Atlantic.
The decision to lift the ban from Aug. 20 was made after the Faroe Islands, a self-governed territory within the Danish Realm and not part of the EU, agreed to limit herring catches for 2014 to 40,000 tonnes, the European Commission said in a statement.
The EU imposed the ban in August last year and prohibited Faroe Islands vessels from docking in EU ports in a row over alleged over-fishing, with the world's biggest fish importer saying it had to protect a fish stock referred to as the Atlanto-Scandian herring. The Faroe Islands, a small archipelago in the north Atlantic Ocean halfway between Norway and Iceland, took its case to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), accusing the EU of violating international maritime law.
The fishing industry accounted for about 80 percent of Faroese exports in 2011, according to the government. The Commission said the newly agreed catch limit would not endanger the conservation of stocks in the area but added that the lifting of the import ban does not represent a tacit agreement by the EU that 40,000 tonnes is a legitimate share for the Faroe Islands. "It is merely indicative of the fact that the sustainability of the stock is no longer in jeopardy," the Commission said.
In 2013 the Faroe Islands awarded itself a quota that more than trebled its previously agreed shared of the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock, triggering the import ban. In addition, the five coastal states sharing the mackerel and herring stock - Norway, Russia, Iceland, Faroe Islands and the EU - will start talks in the autumn to decide on how best to ensure the area is not over-fished.
The Commission estimates that 75 percent of European fish stocks are over-fished, compared with 25 percent worldwide. In May last year the EU struck an agreement to end decades of over-fishing that had depleted its stocks, with strict enforcement of quotas for member states.