Published September 16, 2014
The Faroese trawler ‘Næraberg’ was fishing for mackerel in Greenlandic waters when its engine suffered a malfunction. As the Icelandic Coast Guard was best situated to help, it sent a plane out to the trawler with spare engine parts, which it dropped in a parachute. The Faroese crew retrieved them in a dinghy and went to work repairing the engine.
Another lovely story of cooperation in the North Atlantic Ocean, where hard men with soft hearts help each other survive.
After the attempted repairs, the engine could only produce a fraction of normal power. The ship set course for Iceland. Icelandic harbour authorities asked it to turn back and leave Icelandic territorial waters, even though it was in distress and a storm was coming. After changing their mind and allowing the ship to dock in Reykjavík, authorities said that the crew would not be allowed to disembark, not even to restock their supplies of water, food or oil. There was even a delay in allowing repairmen onto the ship, since it had been fishing for mackerel.
Holy mackerel! Seriously, do Icelanders consider mackerel holy and shun heretics who fish for it?
No, but the Faroe Islands and Iceland have a dispute over mackerel fishing rights. The Faroese entered into an agreement about mackerel stocks with the EU and Norway, excluding Iceland from the negotiations. A 1998 Icelandic law bans foreign ships from docking if they are fishing in stocks which Iceland has disputes over. Icelandic harbour authorities considered themselves bound by this law to deny the ‘Næraberg’ service. Not everyone agrees, including the harbour master in Reykjavík, Gísli Gíslason, who said that the Faroese ship should be treated like an Icelandic ship in a similar situation would be, as required by the Hoyvík Agreement.
Oh yes, the Hoyvík Agreement. It’s fourth on my list of international accords which sound like my cat coughing up a hairball, after the treaties of Hudaybiyyah, Gyehae and Yazhelbitsy.
If your cat makes noises that sound like Yazhelbitsy, you should take it to a vet. The Hoyvík Agreement is an extensive free trade agreement between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, lifting almost all restrictions on businesses in the two countries, with no exceptions for refusing aid to ships in need of repairs. This pigdickery by Icelandic authorities did not go over well, neither in the Faroe Islands nor in Iceland. Internet commenters frothed, politicians who like being angry said angry things in the media, and people in Iceland collected money to throw the fishermen on the ‘Næraberg’ a Domino’s pizza party on their ship.
Isn’t feeding someone Domino’s Pizza against the Geneva Convention? Or at least the International Treaty of Eww Yuck Gross?
They were being nice, no need to be a snob. One thing in particular was brought up time and again: when the Faroe Islands provided an emergency loan to Iceland right after the 2008 financial collapse. The crew themselves brought it up immediately when they contacted Faroese media. The 40 million Euro loan by the nation of fifty thousand people was the first to be promised to Iceland, and was by far the biggest in terms of money per capita. In fact, the Faroese have a long history of helping Icelanders in need, for instance donating large amounts of money after a volcanic eruption in 1973 forced the evacuation of Vestmannaeyjar, and when two separate avalanches in 1995 resulted in more than 30 deaths in the Westfjords.
In return they get donkeyshit about mackerel from the Icelandic government?
And pizza from Domino’s. The Icelandic government is not about to back down on mackerel. Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, responded to a suggestion by a member of the Faroese parliament that the Hoyvík Agreement be overturned, by saying: “The Faroese are party to an agreement on mackerel fishing that means that we don’t have the same rights as the Faroese. And is that in breach of the Hoyvík Agreement? We need to consider that at the same time we consider whether a harbour ban is in breach of the Hoyvík Agreement.”
Always nice when national ministers respond by saying the equivalent of: “If I’m a wombatfucker, what does that make you?”
The Icelandic government went even lower when Jóhann Guðmundsson, the deputy director general of the Ministry of Industry and Innovation, deciding to put the blame on the crew of the damaged fishing vessel: “It was truly a great surprise to us that a ship which should know all the applicable rules, including that it is not allowed to unload their catch in an Icelandic harbour, should all of a sudden lack oil and provisions.” Which is pretty close to accusing the crew of faking the damage to the ship. Maybe he thought they were just really hungry for Domino’s.