Ecosystem overviews

Faroes Ecoregion: Ecoregion Description

​​​​​​​The Faroes ecoregion covers the shelf and surrounding waters inside the Faroese Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and covers a sea area of 274 000 km2 (see figure 1). The waters around the Faroe Islands are in the upper 500 m dominated by the North Atlantic Current, which to the north of the islands meets the East Icelandic Current. Clockwise current systems create retention areas on the Faroe Plateau (Faroe Shelf around the Faroe Islands) and on the Faroe Bank. In deeper waters to the north and east and in the Faroe Bank channel there is deep Norwegian Sea water, and to the south and west is Atlantic water.

The ecoregion contains the following two key areas:

  • the Faroe Plateau (0–300 m), strongly influenced by Atlantic oceanic inflow, mainly from the west. The dominant human activity is fishing (for demersal stocks).
  • the Faroe Bank (shallower than 200 m), strongly influenced by Atlantic oceanic inflow. The dominant human activity is fishing (for demersal stocks).


Management

Fisheries management within the Faroese EEZ is under Faroe Islands legislation. Most of the ecoregion lies within OSPAR Region I (Arctic Waters); some parts to the southwest belong to Region V (Wider Atlantic) and to the southeast to Region II (Greater North Sea).

Two special areas have been defined at the border of the Faroese EEZ (close to the border of the Faroes ecoregion), one extending to the Celtic Seas ecoregion and the other to the Icelandic Waters ecoregion. Fisheries in these areas are managed jointly with the United Kingdom and Iceland, respectively.

The Ministry of Fisheries is responsible for the management of the fisheries and for the implementation of relevant legislation. The Ministry issues regulations for commercial fishing for each fishing year, including an allocation of number of fishing days at sea and TAC for each of the stocks subject to such limitations. The fisheries for some stocks are managed based on agreements between NEAFC and coastal states and by bilateral agreements. Fisheries advice is provided by the Faroe Marine Research Institute (FAMRI) and ICES.

An effort management system, based on the number of fishing days at sea, has been in place since 1996 for the demersal fisheries for cod, haddock, and saithe (Pollachius virens). The total effort was adjusted according to a newly introduced management plan in 2021 and the state of the stocks. This management plan has not yet been evaluated by ICES and therefore ICES bases its advice on the MSY approach. The pelagic fisheries for Norwegian spring‑spawning herring, mackerel, and blue whiting are regulated by quotas according to coastal state agreements.

The current Faroese legislative framework on aquaculture was adopted in 2003, with the objective to promote profitability and competitiveness in aquaculture within a sustainable framework with regards to animal and environmental health. The coastal area of the Faroe Islands is divided into management areas, typically on the scale of fjords. Only one fish farmer is allowed to operate in each management area; farming licences for low trophic species may also be issued in the management areas provided these pose no risk to the fish farming activity in the area. Two key pieces of development consent are required for the establishment of an aquaculture site, namely, an aquaculture licence and an environmental permit. It is illegal to shoot or otherwise deliberately kill marine mammals at sea farms.

Marine mammal harvests are managed by special laws and consolidated acts, issued by the Faroese Government, that regulate species, harvesting area, equipment, and general practice for any harvest. Advice for management and sustainable harvest limits are issued through the regional cooperation in the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO). There is currently no advice given by NAMMCO for a reduction in the harvest of any species because of unsustainable harvest levels.

International shipping is regulated under the International Maritime Organization (IMO; e.g., the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships (AFS), and the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments).

Generally, fowling is regulated by a law specifying which species and in which seasons catching seabirds is allowed. The level of fowling catch is unregulated. Fowling on land that is privately owned and where certain species breed is regulated by rules agreed on by the local council of landowners (“Grannastevna").

The Faroese Geological Survey (Jarðfeingi), an institution under the Ministry of Environment, Industry and Trade, is responsible for administration of hydrocarbon exploration and production activities in the Faroe Islands. So far, no licences for commercial oil and gas fields have been issued.

​Marine renewable energy, which still is on an experimental stage with one tidal power plant located between two islands, is managed by the power company SEV, which is an inter-municipal community, owned by all the municipalities in the Faroe Islands governmentally owned power company. There are no marine wind farms in the ecoregion. ​

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Figure 1: the Faroes ecoregion as defined by ICES. ICES areas are indicated by thin grey lines. The abbreviations are as follows: Lousy Bank (LB), Bill Bailey Bank (BBB), Faroe Bank (FB), Faroe Bank Channel (FBC), Faroe Shelf (FS), Faroe Shetland Channel (FSC), Iceland–Faroe Ridge (IFR), and Wyville-Thomson Ridge (WTR). 

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Faroes Ecoregion: Ecoregion Description

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