Another Shot Fired in Shrimp War

Sept 7, 2004

Canadian Press

St. John's — Faroe Islands shrimp boats will return to waters just outside Canadian jurisdiction if the country is not allotted a greater share of the European shrimp catch, the country's fisheries minister warned Wednesday.

Fisheries Minister Bjorn Kalso said Faroese fishermen will resume harvesting shrimp over and above a quota set by the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, reigniting a dispute that saw Canadian officials threaten last week to ban vessels from the Faroe Islands, Denmark and Greenland from its ports.

“The decision to set an autonomous quota this year was only taken after careful consideration,” Mr. Kalso said in a statement.

Canada had given Denmark, which also represents the Faroe Islands and Greenland in NAFO, until noon last Friday to stop the shrimp harvest.

The Faroese decision to remove its one remaining vessel by midnight Tuesday night was touted as a victory of sorts in Canada's fight to stop foreign overfishing in the North Atlantic.

But Mr. Kalso called it a “temporary pause in fishing” pending the outcome of a NAFO meeting later this month.

“The Faroese have a real and long-standing stake in the shrimp fishery, which is very important to us as a small, fisheries-dependent nation in the region,” Mr. Kalso said.

“This has made it even more disappointing and frustrating to see our genuine fisheries interests simplistically branded as ‘foreign overfishing' by our North Atlantic neighbours.”

But it's a “flimsy claim” for access to the shrimp fishery, said Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union.

It's outrageous that a country can simply object and set its own quota under the rules of NAFO, he said.

“The minute they catch another pound of ill-gotten gains ... the ports should be closed,” said Mr. McCurdy.

Newfoundland Fisheries Minister Trevor Taylor was travelling and unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Canada harvests 83 per cent of the total catch in the international waters outside its 200-mile economic zone, about 10,800 tonnes. European nations share the remaining 17 per cent.

In 1999, NAFO decided to divide that 17 per cent evenly among the 15 European nations, meaning the Faroe Islands received a quota of 144 tonnes this season.

Canadian officials admit it is not enough for a reasonable fishery.

Denmark objected to the quota, saying parts of the European share had been given to countries that don't even harvest shrimp.

The Faroe Islands set its own quota of 1,344 tonnes, which it says is sustainable and based on its historical share of the fishery. So far, Faroese vessels have harvested about half of its target.

In return for ceasing their shrimp harvest, Canada has agreed to support the Faroe Islands in its bid for a greater portion of the European quota.

Mr. Kalso welcomed the help. The island has objected to the quota division for five years without success.

“We are pleased that Canada, as the major stakeholder in the region, has now expressed a genuine willingness to assist us in correcting the situation,” he said.

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