Russian trawlers permitted to fish in UK waters despite widespread sanctions

A Scottish fisherman has slammed the Faroe Islands' government for granting licenses that allow Russian trawlers to fish in UK waters while “innocent women and children are being killed” in Ukraine by military. Colin Leask, First Mate of the Altaire, told ITV News “there’s no morals" with the Faroese government, "it’s just pure greed”.

He’s just returned from a two-week trip between Scotland and the Faroe Islands, during which he witnessed a Russian fleet of “11 huge factory ships” trawling inside UK waters.

Adding insult to his injury, Mr Leask says the Russian trawlers are able to catch thousands of tonnes more fish than UK vessels in British waters due to licensing agreements with the Faroese government.

He says: “It’s beyond belief what they’re allowing to go on. It’s basically all for money so they can go into Russian waters and catch whitefish. It’s ridiculous.”

Colin Leask is skipper of the Altaire (pictured).

Russian trawlers are able to fish in UK waters due to a shared area agreement signed in 1999 between the the Faroe Island government and the UK governments.

Critics claim that the Faroese have subsequently aligned themselves closer and closer to Russia and, even now with the Ukrainian war raging and Russian vessels banned from accessing many European ports, the Faroese have yet to clamp down.

The Faroe Islands have not introduced any meaningful sanctions against Russia. According to their website, there is “new legislation making its way through the Faroese parliament designed to give the government the necessary powers to implement targeted sanctions against Russia".

In a statement the UK government called on that of the Faroe Islands to "take a tougher stance on this. Allowing Russian vessels access [to UK waters] in the midst of the horrors we are seeing in Ukraine is simply wrong.

"We will categorically not license any Russian flagged vessels to fish anywhere in UK waters, and we will continue to urge the Faroese to follow our lead, ban these vessels, and do what is ultimately the right thing to do.”

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Ian Gatt, CEO of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, recently told Fishing News: “As far as Faroe Islands is concerned, it’s business as usual with Russia.

"The Russian fleet is being fully serviced by the Faroe Islands, including refuelling. The proceeds of this fishery will further fuel the war effort by the Kremlin.”

Mr Leask has written an open letter to the UK government outlining his concerns. In it he says: “Russia is the single most important export destination for the Faroe Islands” and there should be a “rethink” by the government over “equal access”. ITV News have approached the Faroe Islands government for a response and are awaiting a reply.

In a statement posted on its website on Wednesday following a meeting with the UK government, the Faroese government said it condemns “Russia for its illegal war against Ukraine and agreed [with the UK] on the importance of measures aimed at compelling Russia to withdraw its armed forces from Ukraine. 

"They also agreed [with the UK] that measures are necessary and on the importance of continuing a close dialogue.”