Skip to main content

Trade Measures to Prevent Illegal Fishing and the WTO: An Analysis of the Settled Faroe Islands Dispute


There has been increasing litigation in the WTO on environmental issues in recent years, much of it about fishing. Two cases, Chile–Swordfish and Faroes–Herring, brought to light the potential for conflict between trade and fisheries law through the imposition of port state measures by WTO members to prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, although both cases were settled before reaching Panel stage. Port state measures aim to combat IUU fishing by allowing countries to close their ports to IUU fish. This includes using trade measures and trade-related measures, such as import bans and transshipment bans, which may violate WTO law. The potential for conflict is even more acute now that the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) has come into force. This paper takes as its study Faroes–Herring, where the Faroes challenged certain EU regulations aimed at preventing IUU fishing through the use of port state measures. It examines whether these regulations comply with WTO law, and makes recommendations as to how a Panel or Appellate Body can resolve this type of dispute. Specifically, it focuses on ways in which international fisheries law can be incorporated in this process to avoid a conflict between international trade and fisheries law.

Corresponding author
Hide All

1 WTO, EU – Measures on Atlanto-Scandian Herring: Request for Consultations by Denmark in Respect of the Faroe Islands, 7 November 2013, WT/DS469/1.

2 Pelagic AC, Coastal States Management Plan Atlanto–Scandian Herring 1999 (1999), (accessed 15 February 2017). For an example of a Recommendation adopted in terms of the Plan, see NEAFC Recommendation 3: 2017 (2017),–%20Herring.pdf (accessed 15 February 2017).

3 Council Regulation 1005/2008, OJ 2008 L 286/1.

4 Council Regulation 1026/2012, OJ 2012 L 316/34.

5 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, 1833 UNTS 396, arts. 63–64.

6 Transshipment refers to the unloading of fish from one vessel to another in port for the purpose of onward carriage to another port.

7 Council Regulation 793/2013, OJ 2013 L 223/1.

8 Faroes–Herring, supra note 1.

9 WTO, Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, 1994.

10 Implementing Council Regulation, supra note 7.

11 WTO, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, 1994.

12 For purposes of this paper, ‘EU Regulations’ refer to the IUU, Shared Stocks, and Implementing Regulations.

13 Non-cooperating countries are designated under Chapter VI of the EU's IUU Regulation, supra note 3. Non-cooperating countries are those which have not effectively policed IUU fishing in their own waters.

14 Agreements made between some of the parties to an agreement modifying that agreement only between those parties.

15 Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing 2009, United Nations Treaty Collection No. 54133.

16 International Law Commission, Fragmentation of International Law: Difficulties Arising from the Diversification and Expansion of International Law, UN Doc. A/CN.4/L.682, 13 April 2006, paras. 306–318; Vranes, E., Trade and the Environment: Fundamental Issues in International Law, WTO Law and Legal Theory (Oxford University Press, 2009), at 82 and 91; Pauwelyn, Joost, Conflicts of Norms in Public International Law: How WTO Law Relates to other Rules of International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2003), at 52–54.

17 WTO, Peru – Additional Duty on Imports of Certain Agricultural Products, 20 July 2015, WT/DS457/AB/R.

18 WTO, US – Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products, 12 October 1998, WT/DS58/AB/R.

19 Ibid., para. 130.

20 Faroe Islands, Sustainable Fisheries (video) (2016), (accessed 2 February 2017).

21 M. H. Rasmussen, Current Trends in the Faroese Economy (2014), (accessed 24 February 2017).

22 Hagstova Føroya, Faroe Islands in Figures 2016 (2016), (accessed 24 February 2017) at 28.

23 Ibid., at 34.

24 FAO, International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (2001), (accessed 24 February 2017).

25 See the definition of IUU fishing in the IUU Regulation, supra note 3, art. 2.2.

26 See, for example, PSMA, supra note 15, art. 1(e); Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act (Law of 11 May 2015) [2015] H.R. 774, Public Law No: 114–81, s 303(2); NEAFC, NEAFC Scheme of Control and Enforcement (2010: latest update on 9 February 2017), https:// (accessed 24 February 2016), art. 1(L).

27 Shared Stocks Regulation, supra note 4, art. 3.

28 D. Agnew et al., ‘Estimating the Worldwide Extent of Illegal Fishing’, PLOS 1 (2009).

29 Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing: Sanctions in the EU (2014), (accessed 15 February 2017) at 22–23.

30 IPOA-IUU, supra note 24.

31 PSMA, supra note 15.

32 The FAO has said that port state measures ‘typically include requirements related to prior notification of port entry, use of designated ports, restrictions on port entry and landing/transshipment of fish, restrictions on supplies and services, documentation requirements and port inspections, as well as related measures, such as IUU vessel listing, trade-related measures and sanctions’, FAO, Port State Measures (2017), (accessed 24 February 2017).

33 See FAO, International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (2017), (accessed 15 February 2017), for plans of action created by 17 states to prevent IUU fishing, including Australia, Canada, Japan, and Chile.

34 US IUU Act, supra note 26.

35 A flag of convenience state allows vessels owned by nationals of other states on to its shipping register. Lax enforcement, particularly with regard to safety and labour requirements, often characterize these flags, and they are often used for criminal activity.

36 Agnew, supra note 28.

37 Shared Stocks Regulation, supra note 4, arts 4(1)(a)–(d).

38 Implementing Council Regulation, supra note 7, art. 3(d).

39 Shared Stocks Regulation, supra note 4, art. 4.

40 European Commission, Questions and Answers on the EU's Fight against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing (2015), (accessed 24 February 2017).

41 IUU Regulation, supra note 3, arts 37 and 43–45.

42 UNCLOS, supra note 5.

43 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks 1995, 2167 UNTS 109.

44 FAO, FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995), (accessed 24 February 2017).

45 Ibid., art. 6.14.

46 IPOA-IUU, supra note 24, s 65.

47 WTO, US – Prohibition of Imports of Tuna and Tuna Products from Canada, 22 December 1981, L/5198-29S/91; WTO, Canada  Measures Affecting Exports of Unprocessed Herring and Salmon, 20 November 1987, L/6268-35S/98; WTO, Chile  Measures Affecting the Transit and Importation of Swordfish: Request for Consultations by the European Communities, 26 April 2000, WT/DS193/1 G/L/367.

48 Ibid., Chile–Swordfish.

49 PSMA, supra note 15, arts 9(4) and 11.

50 UNFSA, supra note 43.

51 NEAFC Scheme, supra note 26.

52 GATT, supra note 11.

53 WTO, EC  Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products, 29 September 2006, WT/DS291/R; WT/DS292/R; WT/DS293/R.

54 US–Shrimp, supra note 18, paras. 130–132.

55 WTO, US  Restrictions on Imports of Tuna, 3 September 1991, DS21/R, unadopted; WTO, US–Restrictions on Imports of Tuna, 6 June 1994, DS29/R, unadopted.

56 Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, 2015, (accessed 25 February 2017), art. 20.16.

57 The special law prevails over the general law.

58 The later law prevails over the earlier law.

59 ILC Study, supra note 16.

60 Young, M. A., Trading Fish, Saving Fish (Cambridge University Press, 2011), at 8788 .

61 Hierarchically superior laws such as jus cogens norms trump other norms.

62 See note 16 above.

63 ILC Study, supra note 16, paras. 306–318.

64 Peru–Agricultural Products, supra note 17.

65 Ibid., also see WTO, Mexico  Tax Measures on Soft Drinks and Other Beverages, 6 March 2006, WT/DS308/AB/R.

66 Ibid., Peru–Agricultural Products, supra note 17.

67 Peru–Agricultural Products, supra note 17, paras. 5.97 and 5.112.

68 Young, supra note 60, 224–239.

69 WTO, US  Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products-Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by Malaysia, 22 October 2001, WT/DS58/AB/RW.

70 Young, supra note 60, at 202.

71 WTO, EC and Certain Member States  Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft, 18 May 2011, WT/DS316/AB/R.

72 Ibid., paras. 844–845.

73 Flett, James, ‘Importing Other International Regimes into World Trade Organization Litigation’, in Young, M. A. (ed.), Regime Interaction in International Law: Facing Fragmentation (Cambridge University Press, 2012) 260, at 303.

74 Peters, A., ‘Fragmentation and Constitutionalism’, in Orford, A., Hoffmann, F., and Clark, M. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law (Oxford University Press, 2016) 1011, at 1024–1025.

75 WTO, EC – Measures Affecting the Importation of Certain Poultry Products, 23 July 1998, WT/DS69/R, para. 206.

76 Urakami, K., ‘Unsolved Problems and Implications for the Chapeau of GATT Article XX after the Reformulated Gasoline Case’, in Weiss, E., Jackson, J. H., and Bernasconi-Osterwalder, N. (eds.), Reconciling Trade and Environment (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2008) 171, at 185.

77 Catch certification, or documentation, schemes trace fish or fishery products from the point of capture and throughout the supply chain through generation of documents setting out certain prescribed information which verifies that the fish or fishery products were not caught using IUU methods.

78 M.A. Young, Trade Related Measures to Address Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, June 2015, (accessed 7 May 2017) at 11–12.

79 Faroes–Herring, supra note 1.

80 For a comprehensive overview, see K. Auld, ‘Can Port State Measures taken against RMFO Partners be reconciled with International Trade Law? A Critical Analysis of the EU Shared Stocks Regulation in light of the Herring Dispute’, LLM thesis,, at 16–24.

81 See WTO, European Communities  Measures Affecting Asbestos and Asbestos-Containing Products, 12 March 2001, WT/DS135/AB/R; WTO, Brazil–Measures Affecting Imports of Retreaded Tyres, 3 December 2007, WT/DS332/AB/R, amongst others.

82 See US–Shrimp, supra note 18; WTO, US–Standards for Reformulated and Conventional Gasoline, 29 April 1996, WT/DS2/AB/R, amongst others.

83 For a full discussion of the reasons for this, see Auld, supra note 80, at 27–36.

84 Young, supra note 78, at 16.

85 US–Shrimp, supra note 18, paras. 161–165.

86 IUU Regulation, supra note 3, art. 31(5)(d).

87 Ibid., art. 32.

88 Shared Stocks Regulation, supra note 4, art. 5(4).

89 See, e.g., Urakami, supra note 76, at 182, Briggs, L., ‘“Exhaustible Natural Resources”: The Role of Precedent in the GATT Article XX(g) Exception’, in Weiss, E., Jackson, J. H., and Bernasconi-Osterwalder, N. (eds.), Reconciling Trade and Environment (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2008), 265, at 296; contra Bartels, L., ‘The Chapeau of the General Exceptions in the WTO GATT and GATS Agreement: A Reconstruction’, 109 American Journal of International Law (2015) 95, at 122.

90 Ibid., art. 6; Implementing Council Regulation, supra note 7, Preamble; IUU Regulation, supra note 3, art. 32.

91 Young, supra note 78, at 10.

92 See section 4.2.2 below.

93 Bartels, supra note 89, at 118–121.

94 Shenk, M. D., ‘United States – Standards for Reformulated and Conventional Gasoline’, 90 The American Journal of International Law (1996) 669, at 672–673.

95 US–Shrimp, supra note 18, para. 176.

96 Bartels, supra note 89, at 118

97 Ibid.

98 Ibid. Bartels notes that discrimination can be justified for reasons recognized in international standards. In illustrating this point, he refers to EC–Tariff Preferences, which states that these standards can be set out in, inter alia, multilateral instruments.

99 Ibid. Bartels suggests that discrimination could be justified by reference to other WTO agreements and that the Appellate Body may also recognize legitimate objectives ‘without reference to other normative considerations’, although the latter is less likely than the other legitimate objectives discussed.

100 A. Schroeer et al., The European Union and Fishing Subsidies (2011), (accessed 8 May 2017) at 4–12; Al Jazeera, Anger as EU maintains fishing subsidies (2012), (accessed 25 February 2017).

101 Young, supra note 60, at 87–88; ibid; Schrooer et al., supra note 100, at 3.

102 France, for example, has been found guilty of not complying with EU fishing laws by the European Court of Justice, regarding the size of drift nets (which net large numbers of by-catch), mesh sizes, and offering undersized fish for sale – see Case C-556/07, Commission of the European Communities v. French Republic [2009] ECR I-00025 (ECLI:EU:C:2009:133) and Case C-304/02, Commission of the European Communities v. French Republic [2005] ECR I-06263 (ECLI:EU:C:2004:274).

103 The University of British Colombia, An estimate of the total catch in the Spanish Mediterranean Sea and Gulf of Cadiz Regions (1950–2010) (2015), (accessed 25 February 2017) at 4, 6 and 21; K. Willson, M. Cabra, and M. G. Rey, ‘Nearly €6 Billion in Subsidies Fuel Spain’s Ravenous Fleet’, Part II Looting the Seas (2012), (accessed 16 September 2017) 50.

104 Willson et al., supra note 103.

105 Ibid.

106 Al Jazeera, supra note 100; G. Carpenter, The EU Common Fisheries Policy has helped, not harmed, UK fisheries (2016), (accessed 25 February 2017); Willson, supra note 103.

107 F. Harvey and A. Neslen, Fishing quotas defy scientists’ advice (2014), (accessed 25 February 2017).

108 G. Carpenter, Landing the Blame: Overfishing in the Baltic 2017 (2016), (accessed 25 February 2017).

109 See Bartels, supra note 89, at 110–112.

110 IUU Regulation, supra note 3, art. 31(5)(c).

111 Ibid., art. 31(6)(c).

112 Shared Stocks Regulation, supra note 4, art. 3.

113 K. Donnelly, SPICe Briefing: The Reformed Common Fisheries Policy (2014), (accessed 25 February 2017), at 3–4.

114 See for examples of cases brought against Spain, Case C-189/07, Commission of the European Communities v. Kingdom of Spain [2009] ECR I-00195 (ECLI:EU:C:2008:760); Case C-42/03, Commission of the European Communities v. Kingdom of Spain, judgment of 2 December 2004, not yet reported (ECLI:EU:C:2004:764). For cases against France see Case C-556/07, supra note 102; Case C-304/02, supra note 102.

115 European Commission, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) (2017), (accessed 25 February 2017).

116 Carpenter, supra note 108.

117 Schroeer, supra note 100, at 5.

118 Ibid. at 4–12; Al Jazeera, supra note 100.

119 Ibid. (Al Jazeera).

120 Corporate Europe Observatory, Fishing for influence (2017), (accessed 9 May 2015).

121 D. Vevers, Nine in Ten Fishermen Will Back Brexit, Survey Suggests (2016), (accessed 25 February 2017).

122 Note, for example, the recent elections in the Netherlands and France, and upcoming election in Germany.

123 Article 13 of the DSU, supra note 9, allows a Panel to ‘seek information and technical advice from any experts to obtain their opinion on certain aspects of the matter’. It is also possible that the Appellate Body could seek such information after US–Shrimp where the Appellate Body held that it may draw up its own working procedures, although this has been a controversial finding.

124 European Commission, supra note 40.

125 Young, supra note 78, at 15.

126 Bjorge, E., The Evolutionary Interpretation of Treaties (Oxford University Press, 2014), at 190.

127 Brazil–Tyres, supra note 81, para 172.

128 Council Regulation 2211/80, OJ 1980 L 226/12.

129 K. L. H. Johannesen, President of the Faroe Islands, Coercive Economic Measures Are Illegal and Counterproductive (2014), (accessed 25 February 2017).

130 Ports of convenience are those that allow fish caught by IUU means to enter, thereby undermining the efficacy of port state measures implemented by other states in the area.

131 US–Shrimp, supra note 18, para. 172.

132 US–Shrimp 21.5, supra note 69, para. 203.

133 US–Gasoline, supra note 82, at 27.

134 WTO, EC–Measures Prohibiting the Importation and Marketing of Seal Products, 22 May 2014, WT/DS400/AB/R; WT/DS401/AB/R, paras. 5.337–5.338.

135 See Fitzmaurice, M.A., ‘International Environmental Law as a Special Field’, 25 Netherlands Yearbook of International Law (1994), 181, at 212.

136 UNCLOS, supra note 5.

137 UNFSA, supra note 43.

138 ITLOS, Request for an Advisory Opinion Submitted by the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission, 2 April 2015, ITLOS Case No. 21.

139 Ibid., para. 205.

140 UNFSA, supra note 43, arts 5, 6 and 8.

141 Examples include the FAO Fisheries Code, supra note 44, arts 11.2.9 and 11.2.14; PSMA, supra note 15, art. 6; IPOA-IUU, supra note 24, ss 9.1 and 68; Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas 1993, 2221 UNTS 120, art. 5.

142 Young, supra note 78, at 15.

143 O'Brien, P., ‘Unilateral Environmental Measures after the WTO Appellate Body's Shrimp–Turtle Decision’, in Weiss, E., Jackson, J. H., and Bernasconi-Osterwalder, N. (eds.), Reconciling Trade and Environment (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2008), 451, at 451.

144 US–Shrimp, supra note 18, at 121.

145 Ibid., at 475–476; R. Benedini, ‘Complying with the WTO Shrimp–Turtle Decision’, in E. Weiss, J. H. Jackson and N. Bernasconi-Osterwalder (eds.), Reconciling Trade and Environment (2008) 419, at 442; C. Wold and G. Fullilove, Analysis of the WTO Appellate Body's Decision in Shrimp/Turtle (2000), (accessed 25 February 2017).

146 FAO, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (2016),, (accessed 8 May 2017), at 5–6.

147 Agnew, supra note 28.

148 See, e.g., WTO, Korea–Measures Affecting Imports of Fresh, Chilled and Frozen Beef, 10 January 2001, WT/DS161/AB/R; WT/DS169/AB/R, para. 162; where the Appellate Body, in the context of necessity in Article XX(b) found that ‘[t]he more vital or important [the] common interests or values are, the easier it would be to accept as “necessary” a measure designed as an enforcement instrument,’ The Appellate Body repeated this statement in EC–Asbestos, supra note 81, para. 172.

149 M. Trebilcock, R. Howse, and A. Eliason, The Regulation of International Trade (2013) at 678.

150 O'Brien, supra note 143, at 471.

151 Briggs, supra note 89, at 293–294.

152 See IUU Regulation, supra note 3, Preamble 4.

153 European Commission, supra note 40.

154 US–Shrimp, supra note 18, para. 171.

155 Ibid., para. 159.

156 Ibid., para. 170.

157 Peters, supra note 74, at 1025.

158 Johannesen, supra note 129.

159 P. Rojanaphruk, EU's motive behind yellow card queried (2015), (accessed 9 May 2017).

160 US–Gasoline, supra note 82, at 28–29.

161 House of Ocean, The US, the EU and IUU–Part 2 (2015), (accessed 25 February 2017); Schroeer, supra note 100, at 3.

162 Bartels, supra note 89, at 123.

163 US–Shrimp, supra note 18, para. 156.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

World Trade Review
  • ISSN: 1474-7456
  • EISSN: 1475-3138
  • URL: /core/journals/world-trade-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 66 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 465 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 6th October 2017 - 22nd May 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.