Europe’s struggles for fish – Eurasia Review
By Gerardo Fortuna
(EurActiv) – The UK’s decision to send gunboats to Jersey in response to French trawler fishing protests should come as no surprise: EU history is full of fishing skirmishes.
Fish stocks have everything they need to be considered a resource over which nations can wage wars, as they are scarce and most often involve attempts to cross (sea) borders.
Joint and multilateral management of these resources – like the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – has always been a way of preventing this potential source of disputes from escalating.
Throughout history, however, conflicts and social tensions between different fishermen have often led to diplomatic crises, some involving the EU and its member states.
Scallop wars, France v. United Kingdom – the 2010s
In 2012, five British boats fishing for scallops 20 nautical miles off the French coast of Le Havre, Normandy, found themselves surrounded by around 40 hostile French vessels.
The French authorities had temporarily closed this area to their own fishermen for conservation reasons, but were legally unable to do anything to prevent the British fishermen.
The French navy had to intervene when British ships were bombarded with stones by French fishermen and a diplomatic meeting between French and British authorities was necessary to defuse the rank.
The scallop fishery in the English Channel is not managed by a quota at EU level, but by limitations in the so-called “ effort regime ”, which means that it belongs to the countries having an interest in fishing the stock in the area to implement national measures.
Tensions erupted again between British and French scallop fishermen at the end of August 2018, when Norman fishermen claimed they had been given shorter fishing times for scallops than their counterparts. British.
The issue was settled by an agreement reached between the UK and France in September 2018, which provided for all European vessels under 15 meters currently fishing in the area to continue fishing and all larger fishing vessels. Europeans resume their activities in November 2018.
Turbot War, Canada v Spain / EU – 1995
In March 1995, the Canadian Coast Guard seized the Spanish trawler Estai off Newfoundland on charges of overfishing turbot, the high value Greenland halibut with declining populations.
The situation quickly worsened when then EU Fisheries Commissioner Emma Bonino ruled the seizure as “an act of organized piracy”.
The Spaniards asked the Canadian to release the ship – along with its catch – and sent a warship to protect its fishermen.
The major diplomatic incident was finally settled a month later with an agreement between Spain, Canada and the EU, paving the way for a more coordinated and sustainable approach to the management of declining fish stocks.
Cherbourg Incident, France v. United Kingdom – 1993
A number of incidents occurred between Great Britain and France between March and April 1993, requiring the intervention of the British Royal Navy.
In 1992, the EU recognized a British six-mile limit for exclusive fishing rights around the Channel Islands, which was hailed as a huge victory by the British government and strongly contested by the French.
When the British introduced the new EU restrictions, several incidents occurred when British fishing inspectors confiscated the catches of French fishing boats.
A Royal Navy ship sent to patrol the area was surrounded by French trawlers and seized, before French authorities intervened to send it back to the UK.
The UK has announced that the exclusion zone will be maintained by force if necessary. Ultimately, France acknowledged the EU’s restrictions, albeit informally.
Third Cod War, United Kingdom v. Iceland – 1975
The mother of all fishing confrontations off Britain and Iceland actually began in 1958, long before the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973.
However, the so-called third ‘cod war’ with Iceland took place in 1975 and saw EEC countries backing the UK when Iceland unilaterally increased its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – and its fishing rights – 200 miles
The dispute ended with a peace conference in Oslo in 1976, after the United States pressured the United Kingdom when Iceland threatened to close a NATO base on its territory.
Recently the UK agreed not to have the right to fish in the Icelandic EEZ.