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Marine / Growing pressure on Faroe to stop Russian vessels fish off Shetland

Faroese prime minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen (centre) leading a delegation for talks at Westminster on Wednesday. They met with Tom Tugendhat and Angus McNeil to speak about the Faroese-UK relations. Also present was isles MP Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Faroese Government

THE FAROESE government is coming under increased pressure to stop allowing Russian vessels to fish for blue whiting in a special area to the West of Shetland. 

A delegation consisting of the Faroese prime minister, as well as the government’s foreign and fisheries ministers, visiting Westminster on Wednesday were left in no doubt that in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine the UK Government would like to see the practice stop.

Earlier today (Thursday) the issue was also raised in the Commons with UK fisheries minister Victoria Prentice confirming to isles MP Alistair Carmichael that pressure is being applied on Faroe (see clip).

Later on Thursday, European industry body Northern Pelagic Working Group strongly condemned the Faroese government for continuing its trade with Russia.

Chair of the group Tim Heddema said: “The proceeds of this Russian fishery will further facilitate Russia’s war waged on Ukraine, which has led to needless death, destruction and human misery.

“The continuing licensing and full servicing of Russian ships by the Faroe Islands is a deplorable an unacceptable action, as is the damaging unilateral increase of their blue whiting quota to use as currency for quota swaps with Russia.” 

Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Carmichael said the Faroese had to decide which side they were on.

“While the Faroese have a good and profitable record of playing both sides against the middle, this is one occasion where they really need to pick a side,” he said. 

It is understood the Faroese Government has given a commitment to consider not continuing with the arrangement expires at the end of the year.

The Faroese ministry of fisheries has so far not responded to enquiries from Shetland News despite having been contacted several times since the end of last week.

With fisheries the mainstay of the Faroese economy the country has not followed suit in implementing wide ranging sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.

According to sources in Faroe, the islands’ economy is highly dependent on exports to Russia which accounts to around 25 per cent of trade.

Good relationships with Russia are also vital to continue having access to the profitable cod fishery in the Barents Sea, with several companies awaiting delivery of new large trawlers to exploit that fishery.

The general view is that should Faroe give in to European and UK demands to implement sanctions the damage to its own economy would be unproportionally high.

And people in Faroe are accusing politicians in Europe and the UK of “double standards” when demanding actions by some while continuing to buy gas from Russia worth many times more than Faroe’s own trade arrangements with the country.

Note: On Friday, 29 April, the Faroese Government issued a statement confirming that it will not be possible to restrict access of Russian vessels to the special area in 2022, but that the government is ready to conduct “constructive talks with the United Kingdom on the management of the special area.” The full statement can be read here.