Faroe Islands

Fishing is the main source of income for the Faroese, with the fishing industry representing 92.1% of exports in the year 2000 and contributing to 44.5% of the GDP in the last few years. Pilar Santamaria reports - The Faroese archipelago is a traditional fishing country with fleet fishing in the immediate area of the Islands, as well as in middle areas and distant waters of the North Atlantic. However since the introduction of the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone in 1977, the major share of the Faroe catch today derives from its own waters. Out of the 520.000 tons captures registered by the Faroese fleet last year, 249,460 tons come from its EEZ, 236,756 tons were catch in Middle waters and just 34,406 are due to distant water fishing.

Main catches in Faroese waters are demersal and pelagic species. Among the first group are cod, the capture with the highest export value, haddock and pollock. The most important pelagic resources are blue whiting, main stock in terms of quantity, herring and mackerel. A small number of shell and molluscs species that includes queen scallops, norwegian lobsters and prawns can also be found in Faroese waters. However, only one vessel is allowed to fish for queen scallops and just a few hundred tons have been caught annually over the past few years.

Total catches reached 584,000 tons last year, of which 334,540 tons were due to foreign fleet. Vessels from other countries can access to Faroese Waters through one-year bilateral or multilateral agreements consisting in the exchange of fishing rights. Foreign fleet comes principally from the EU, Norway, Russia, Greenland and Iceland. Among the captures registered by foreign vessels, blue whiting represents almost 94% of the total. Fishery agreements are also signed with organizations as NEAFC, NAFO and ICCAT.

Although fish stocks are in a sustainable level at the moment, the cod stock halved from the middle 80s to the middle 90s, due to environmental effects and principally to overfishing.

Utilization of the catch

Faroese distant water fishery consists on a fleet of 68 vessels fishing in Barents Sea, NAFO, NEAFC and Greenland. This fleet encompasses mainly filleting and shrimp trawlers. Over the last few years, a Faroese vessel has also been producing surimi. The filleting trawlers mainly catch cod and produce quick frozen fillets onboard. A large proportion of these quick-frozen fillets and boiled quick frozen shrimps are packaged directly in retail catering boxes.

Middle water includes 26 ships in the North Sea West of Britain fishing blue whiting, mackerel and herring; 19 vessels in Norway catching pout and sandeel and the Icelandic waters with 65 vessels for demersal species as well as capelin and herring. Catches landed in the Faroe Islands are either exported fresh or processed mainly into fresh or frozen fillets and portions and salt fish in the approximately 60 factories established in the country. A few factories also process fishmeal, oil and feed for the fish farms.

Economic Role

Fishing is the main source of income for the Faroese, with the fishing industry representing 92.1% of exports in the year 2000 and contributing in 44.5% to the GDP in the last few years.

Fresh and frozen fish fillets are the most important export items, with sales reaching

DKK 1,116,224 million, followed by fresh and frozen fish at DKK 813,178 million and salmon and trout with DKK 730,923 million in 2001. Total of fishery exports reached DKK 4,221,314 million.

Main markets for Faroese fish are the EU, destination of more than 80% of all exports, Norway, USA, Iceland and Japan.

Fishery management

As Faroe Islands' economy is strongly dependant on fishery exports, and therefore society is vulnerable to any fluctuations in catch and landings, an efficient management regime is required to achieve stable economy conditions.

Fishery management is based on transferable fishing days, with fishing rights to be rented up to 10 years. The 'fishing day per boat' system, introduced in 1996 replacing the former quota regime, distinguishes different kind of vessels depending on their tonnage and confers them a different number of fishing days.

The focus in the new management is no longer solely on catch, but more on fishing efforts.

According to fishery experts from the Faroe Islands, an important advantage of this system is the reduction of discards.

For foreign vessels fishing in Faroese waters, a quota system is established as well as fishing days.

With regard to financial aid, subsidies to the fishery sector formerly finished in 1990. Limited indirect subsidies still remain in form of minimum salary guarantees to fishermen and public interest rate guarantees on investments. In 2001 the cost of the income guarantee reached DKK 31,533.000.


Although the Ministry of Fisheries administers all commercial fishing, fish farming is responsibility of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Aquaculture has developed in the Faroe Islands since the late 70s being the Atlantic Salmon the dominant specie. Influenced by prices, the industry reached a rapid expansion in the 80s and in the beginning of the 90s there were over 60 fish farms. However, when prices dropped as the international market adapted to increased supplies of farmed salmon from other countries, the industry went through structural changes and in 1999 there were 26 fish farms owned by 17 companies.

Over the last few years, production has increased from 18,000 tons to 28,000 tons and it is expected to growth up to 50,000 tons in coming years.

Nevertheless, though water temperatures are suitable for mariculture, sheltered areas for rearing are limited and the growth of the harvest depends on the success of farming in more exposed areas.

Salmon farming has become the second biggest export industry in the Islands representing 25% of the total export value for year 2000.

Approximately 25% of the salmon is subjected to an added value process prior to export, mainly is exported as dinner portion cuts and only a small proportion is smoked in the Faroes.

The prevention of disease spreading between farms has been regarded as a high priority and, therefore, obtaining an import licence for smolts has been very difficult. Only since February last year, when the Veterinary and Hygiene agreement with the EU came into force, the import of 'livestock' into the country became possible.

International agreements

In international fisheries organizations embracing the North Atlantic, where the EU represents Denmark, Faroe Islands maintain a separate membership.

The Fisheries Department represents the country in organizations such as ICES (International Council for Exploration of the Sea), NAFO (North Atlantic Fisheries Organizations), NEAFC (North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission), NAMMCO (North Atlantic Marine Mammals Commission), NASCO (North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation) and ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna).

As for fishery conflicts with other countries, the Faroe Islands have a dispute with Canada regarding shrimp fishery in area 3L on the Grand Banks.

The shrimp TAC in the area is 6.000 tons. Canada gets 5.000 tons and the remaining 1.000 tons is divided between 15 nations. Faroese share a quota with Greenland of 34 ton each there but demand 60% of the quotas claiming historical rights.

Last March Canada closed its ports to Faroese fishing vessels to all purposes other than an emergency.

Canada accuses the Faroe Fleet of overfising its quota of shrimp as well as misreporting catches for 2001 and 2002. They are also said to have failed to comply with the NAFO requirement to limit the number of vessels fishing in this area to one vessel at any given time.

There are 20 large ports and most of them are constructed as fishing ports with an average draught depth of 6-7 metres. Most of them can harbour vessels with a length of 50 metres, and major ports as Torshavn and Runavik dock vessels of more than 100 metres. However vessels exceeding 100 metres in length and with 7 metres draught should check the situation in advance.

Most harbours have basic facilities as water, bunkers, waste oil, garbage disposal, stores and mechanical repair facilities.


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