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The Cod War The Cod War
by The Ovi Team
2022-09-21 07:32:18
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21st Sept. 1958; Britain and Iceland have called a temporary halt to the COD WAR because a British Marine was taken sick with acute appendicitis, and the British skipper of the Frigate Diana asked the Icelandic coast guard ship Aeger for permission to sail into the Icelandic port where a hospital was located inside the Icelandic 12 mile zone, The Icelandic Government gave permission and the Marine is now in hospital in Iceland receiving treatment.

code01_400The Cod Wars, also called the Icelandic Cod Wars were a series of confrontations in the 1950s and 1970s between the United Kingdom and Iceland regarding fishing rights in the North Atlantic.

In 1972, Iceland unilaterally declared an Exclusive Economic Zone extending beyond its territorial waters, before announcing plans to reduce overfishing. It policed its quota system with the coast guard, leading to a series of net-cutting incidents with British trawlers that fished the areas. As a result, a fleet of Royal Naval warships and tug-boats were employed to act as a deterrent against any future harassment of British fishing crews by the Icelandic craft. The conflict involved several cases of vessels ramming each other.

The dispute ended in 1976 after Iceland threatened to close a major NATO base in retaliation for Britain's deployment of naval vessels within the disputed 200 nautical mile (370 km) limit. The British government conceded, and agreed that after 1 December 1976 British vessels would not fish within the previously disputed area.

Iceland's population was at that time almost exclusively dependent on fishing as a source of income. With increases in fishing ability enabled by steam power in the latter part of the 19th century, pressure was exerted on boat owners and skippers to exploit new grounds. Large catches in Icelandic waters meant voyages across the North Atlantic became more regular. In 1893, the Danish Government, who governed Iceland and the Faroe Islands, claimed a fishing limit of 13 nautical miles (24 km) around their shores. British trawler owners disputed this claim and continued to send their ships to Icelandic waters. Danish gunboats patrolling the area escorted a number of vessels to port, fined them and confiscated their catch.

The British Government did not recognise this claim, on the grounds that setting such a precedent would lead to similar claims by nations which surrounded the North Sea, which would be damaging to the British fishing industry. In 1896, the United Kingdom made an agreement with Iceland which allowed for British vessels to use any Icelandic port for shelter, provided they stowed their gear and trawl nets. In return, British vessels were not to fish east of a line from Illunypa to Thornodesker Islet.

In April 1899, the steam trawler Caspian was fishing off the Faroe Islands when a Danish gunboat tried to arrest her for allegedly fishing illegally inside the limits. The trawler refused to stop and was fired upon. Eventually the trawler was caught, but before going aboard the Danish vessel, the skipper ordered his fishing mate to make a dash for it. The Caspian set off at full speed. The gunboat fired several shots at the unarmed boat, but could not catch up with the trawler, which returned heavily damaged to Grimsby. On board the Danish gunboat, the skipper of the Caspian was lashed to the mast. A court held at Thorshavn convicted him on several counts including illegal fishing and attempted assault, and he was jailed for thirty days.

With many British trawlers being charged and fined by Danish gunboats for fishing illegally within the 13 mile (24.1 km) limit (which the British Government failed to recognise), the British press began to enquire why this Danish action against British interests was allowed to continue without intervention by the Royal Navy. The issue was left largely unresolved, and the reduction in fishing activity brought about by the First World War effectively ended the dispute.

The First Cod War lasted from 1 September until 12 November 1958. It began as soon as a new Icelandic law that expanded the Icelandic fishery zone from 4 nautical miles (nm) to 12 nm (from 7.4 to 22.2 km), came into force at midnight of 1 September.

The British declared that their trawlers would fish under protection from their warships in three areas, out of the Westfjords, north of Horn and to the southeast of Iceland. All in all, 20 British trawlers, 4 warships and a supply vessel were inside the newly declared zones. This deployment was expensive, in February 1960 Lord Carrington, head of the Royal Navy, reported that his ships near Iceland had expended half a million pound sterling worth of oil since the new year. As well as that all in all 53 British warships had taken part in the operations. Against this Iceland could deploy seven Patrol vessels and a single PBY-6A Catalina flying boat.
Many incidents followed, such as the one on 4 September, when the V/s Ægir, an Icelandic patrol vessel, attempted to take a British trawler off the Vestfjords, but was thwarted when HMS Russell intervened, and the two vessels collided. On 6 October, V/s María Júlía fired three shots at the trawler Kingston Emerald, forcing the trawler to escape to sea.

On 12 November, V/s Þór encountered the trawler Hackness which had not stowed its nets legally. Hackness did not stop until Þór had fired two blanks and one live shell off its bow. Once again, HMS Russell came to the rescue and its shipmaster ordered the Icelandic captain to leave the trawler alone as it was not within the 4 nm (7.4 km) limit recognised by the British government. Þór's captain, Eiríkur Kristófersson, said that he would not do so, and ordered his men to approach the trawler with the gun manned. In response, the Russel threatened to sink the Icelandic boat if it so much as fired one shot at the Hackness. More British ships then arrived and the Hackness escaped.

Eventually the British and Iceland came to a settlement, which stipulated that any future disagreement between Iceland and Britain in the matter of fishery zones would be sent to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

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