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Russia is considering a ban on fish product imports from the Faroe Islands in response to “actions against” its fishing enterprises

Russia is considering a ban on fish product imports from the Faroe Islands in response to what the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency describes as protective actions against Russian fishing enterprises.

The agency has submitted a proposal to the Russian government to impose the ban. The majority of imports from the Faroe Islands include frozen fish, such as herring, mackerel, and capelin. Official statistics reveal that between 2018 and 2022, the volume of imported products dropped by 50.4%, from 144,100 tonnes to 71,500 tonnes.

According to Tass, the Russian News Agency, the Russian watchdog asserts that this proposed measure will not adversely affect the country’s food security since Russian fishing companies already produce and supply these types of fish to the Russian coast, using them to create various products. Additionally, the potential for increased production capacity indicates that there are no prerequisites for a decrease in the production of frozen fish.

The agency highlights that imports from the Faroe Islands can be replaced by redistributing a portion of existing exports to the domestic market.

In June, Danish media reported that Faroe Islands authorities planned to restrict access to local ports for Russian ships. This would entail prohibiting Russian fishing vessels from providing repair services and significantly reducing the volume of transshipment by 75%.

The proposed ban on fish product imports from the Faroe Islands marks a notable development in Russia’s ongoing response to what it perceives as actions against its fishing industry.

The future of this proposal and its potential impacts on trade between Russia and the Faroe Islands remain uncertain.

“The Federal Fisheries Agency has submitted to the Russian government a proposal to introduce a ban on the import of fish products from the Faroe Islands (autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark) as a response to protective actions against Russian fishing enterprises”

Russian Federal Fisheries Agency

According to Danish fishing news media, Fiskeri Tidende, the move by the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency would have significant economic implications for the Faroe Islands, as their economy is heavily reliant on pelagic fish exports to the lucrative Russian market.

Economist and member of the Faroese Economic Council, Johnny Í Grótinum, explains that this would represent a major economic shock that would require a response and adaptation.

“If this boycott is implemented, our export value will be severely affected,” Johnny Í Grótinum tells DR, a Danish breaking news platform.

Pelagic fishing has been a success story for the Faroe Islands over the last decade. The exports from this sector have been a vital contribution to the Faroese economy.

However, the question arises whether decades of fishing cooperation between the Faroe Islands and Russia have reached their end.

In the past year, the Faroe Islands have exported pelagic fish products to Russia with a total value of over DKK 800 million. This amounts to nearly half of the Faroe Islands’ total exports of pelagic fish products during the same period.

The Faroe Islands had a remarkable economic growth in the past decade, and the “pelagic adventure,” as it is referred to, played a significant part in this growth. This success can be attributed, in no small part, to the lucrative access the Faroe Islands had to the Russian market.

In 2013, the European Union imposed sanctions on the Faroe Islands in a dispute over the size of quotas for herring and mackerel fishing in the Atlantic. The Faroe Islands had unrestricted access to the Russian market, while it was closed to all others. Capitalising on this opportunity, the Faroe Islands built a significant export market.

In essence, the Faroe Islands wanted to increase their quotas and catch about three times more fish. However, the EU objected and stopped the export of Faroese herring and mackerel. This compelled the Faroe Islands to seek other markets, and there were opportunities in the Russian market.

The Faroe Islands, not being a part of the EU, was not subjected to the Western sanctions on Russia when the country annexed the Crimean Peninsula. As a result, the Faroe Islands was not affected by Russian counter-sanctions.

Despite ongoing exports of herring and mackerel to Russia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the overall share of Faroese exports to Russia has considerably decreased. One major factor is the decision by Faroese salmon producers to stop their exports to Russia last year.

“It has been known all along that there is a certain probability of a response from Russia. So, in that sense, this is not so surprising for diplomacy and businesses in the Faroe Islands,” says Heini Í Skórini, an associate professor of international politics at the University of the Faroe Islands, in an interview with DR.

Moreover, Skórini highlights the timing of the proposal. The Faroese government is currently faced with the decision of whether to engage in negotiations to extend a controversial fishing agreement with Russia. This agreement has faced criticism from the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Danish politicians.

According to Heini Í Skórini, the fishing agreement’s value for the Faroe Islands is approximately DKK 200 million annually:

“The timing is interesting because this could easily be interpreted as Russian pressure, with Russia flexing its muscles. The fishing agreement dates back to 1977, so the question is whether decades of fishing cooperation have come to an end or not.”

The Russian announcement has raised concerns in the Faroe Islands. Sjúrður Skaale, a member of the Faroese Javnaðarflokkurin party in the Danish Folketing (parliament), is calling for the Danish Realm (Rigsfællesskabet) to intervene. He wishes for Denmark to secure alternative markets for the Faroe Islands, allowing them an option other than trading with Russia.

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