Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem

In addition to limits on fishing effort, an integral part of Faroese fisheries management is a range of measures which aim to balance fishing in relation to the ecosystem in which it takes place.

Such measures include seasonal fisheries closures, the separation of different fishing methods between areas, minimum fish and mesh sizes to prevent catches of immature and young fish, and sorting grids to minimise unwanted by-catch. Such measures are based on scientific assessments, drawing on the expert knowledge of fishermen familiar with changing fishing conditions in the ecosystem around the Faroe Islands.

Closed areas have been used in a targeted way in Faroese waters for many years.

At certain times of the year, defined areas, in particular spawning areas, are closed to fisheries either partly or entirely. In addition, 60% of the Faroe Plateau at depths of less than 200 m is closed to trawling for most of the year. Most of the Faroe Bank is permanently closed to trawling.

The waters within the entire 12 nautical mile zone on the Faroe Plateau are also closed to all trawling, except for a period in summer when limited trawling for flat fish by smaller vessels is permitted.

The waters within the 6 nautical mile zone are only open to longliners and jiggers between 15-110 GT and small coastal vessels smaller than 15 GT.

Protection of corals

Coral reefs, which provide an important habitat for marine life, have been identified and documented in Faroese waters. Three specific areas are closed to all trawling in order to protect these habitats. The Faroe Marine Research Institute  works in consultation with fishermen to further map the seabed around the Faroe Islands in order to identify additional areas of coral which may be of ecological significance.

Focus on environmentally friendly fishing gear

A priority in both fisheries research and management in the Faroe Islands is the development of fishing gear that minimises the impact of fisheries on other components of the marine ecosystem.

To reduce the impact of trawls on the seabed, as well as to reduce energy consumption of vessels, environmentally-friendly alternatives have been developed, such as trawl undersides with rollers which minimise damage to the seabed compared to conventional trawl gear.

New sorting grids and other technical adaptations to minimise by-catch in trawling have also been developed. The flexi-grid for use in pelagic trawling, such as the blue whiting fishery, has been shown to reduce by-catch of cod and saithe significantly. All vessels fishing for blue whiting around the Faroe Islands are now required to use this grid in most of the areas where pelagic trawling is permitted, in order to minimise bycatch of saithe.

Strict measures to protect young fish

Specific and stringent limitations apply in Faroese fisheries regarding the level of young fish permitted in individual catches in Faroese waters. Immediate temporary closures are implemented if catches of young fish are too high.

Captains are legally required to report immediately to the Fisheries Inspection Service if their catches are above the permitted levels of young fish per haul or set.

For cod, saithe and haddock around the Faroe Islands, young are defined as cod less than 50 cm in length, saithe less than 55 cm and haddock less than 45 cm. Any single haul or set that contains more than 30% of such fish should be reported immediately, so the authorities can decide whether the area in question should be closed to further fishing to protect the stock.

In addition to these precautionary measures, minimum permitted sizes for groundfish are 40 cm for cod, 37 cm for haddock, and 45 cm for saithe.