description of the environmental conditions in the area forms a vital part of
the impact assessment and risk analyses. However, focus must be placed on the
key characteristics relevant for indication of potential impact, and in this
respect, the temporal and spatial distribution as well as the abundance of the
environmental priority issues are emphasised. Supplemental information on
oceanographic characteristics is a pre-requisite to obtain the required
transparency to the reader; such data are the physical basis for the natural
resources and the marine ecosystem. Thus, this section highlights the results
of the project phase of the EIA; for more extensive details, reference is made
to the cited baseline reports.
Faroe-Shetland Channel is a narrow deep-water trough lying between the west
Scottish continental shelf and the Faroe Island plateau. The trough narrows
southward from about 190 km width at 62° 30' N to 90 km width at 60 °N. To
the north, the Faroe-Shetland Channel opens into the Norwegian Basin at depths
of 1,500-2,000 m, while it is connected to the Atlantic ocean via the Faroe
Bank Channel to the southwest. To the south, the Wyville-Thomson Ridge
separates the Faroe-Shetland Channel and Faroe Bank Channel from the Rockall
Trough. Along the northwest slope of the Faroe-Shetland Channel lies the
Fugloy Ridge, a west-southwest–east-northeast elongated continuation of the
The seabed geology around the Faroe Islands is characterised by basalt outcropping in shallow-water areas near the islands and on the banks to the west of the islands. Below about 200 m depth, the seabed is characterised by Quaternary and Holocene sediments of various origin and grain size. In general, the environment can be divided in the following three major regions (cf. Figure 4.2):
Region, water depths less than 300.
Basalt outcrops occur mainly at depths less then 200 m in the inner parts of
the shelf around the Faroe Islands and on the apex of the Wyville-Thomson
Ridge. More generally, a thin layer of seabed sediments, up to a few metres
thick, is found in the shelf region. The outer part of the shelf is
characterised by glacial sediments.
Region, water depths between 300 and 900 m.
The seabed sediments in this region generally consist of soft, silty clay with
varying amounts of sand, clasts and shell fragments.
region, water depths greater than 900 m.
Seabed sediments in the Faroe Bank Channel and Faroe-Shetland Channel show
evidence of significant deep-water currents. The dominant material in this
region may be silty sand with significant occurrence of gravel, cobbles and
boulders at the sediment surface in some areas
to the expert review of the seabed (Bett et al. 2001), the sediment grain size
tends to decrease with depth. It also appears to be a systematic variation in
sediment type from north to south, with coarser/lower mud content sediments to
the south. This variation is presumably related to the narrowing of the
channel to the south, with corresponding increase in current speeds, and so
may also be evident on the western flank of the channel (East Faroe Slope).
southeast corner of the review area, analysis of available 3-D seismic data
indicates the presence of active, giant sand waves. These and other features
related to high current action may well be frequently encountered at the
narrowest point of the Faroe-Shetland Channel and on the Faroe side of the
Faroe Bank Channel. In this area the occurrence of lag sediments with outcrops
of older sediments below reflects an erosional environment in the deep
channel. Of particular note is a very large crescentric/scalloped scarp
running perpendicular to the channel axis. This scarp appears to exert a
significant effect on the downstream surface sediment facies introducing
considerable environmental heterogeneity to this area
section forms a brief review of selected key hydrographical and meteorological
characteristics of the southern Faroese waters. Emphasis is placed on the
characteristics considered of importance to the ecological conditions in the
area, and consequently of relevance to the assessments of likely impact and
analysis of environmental risk in Section 5.
water masses of the Faroe-Shetland Channel consist of an upper layer of warm
North Atlantic Water flowing towards the northeast into the Norwegian Sea,
overlying a lower layer of cold Norwegian Sea bottom water, flowing in the
opposite direction (Turrell et al. 1999). The colder, deeper layer is
funnelled to the west through the Faroe Bank Channel and into the North
Atlantic to the west of the Faroe Islands. The boundary between the warm and
cold waters is rather dynamic and may occur in depths between 400 and 600 m on
the Shetlands side and 500 and 800 m on the Faroe side (Bett et al. 2001).
separate water masses can be recognised within the FSC on the basis of
salinity and temperature (Turrell et al. 1999). These water masses are
described in the following paragraphs with regards to the vertical
the surface layer two distinctive water masses exist: North Atlantic Water (NAW)
and Modified North Atlantic Water (MNAW). The NAW is warmer (> 8 °C) and
more saline surface water, which is confined to the Scottish slope and exists
inshore at depths less than 400 m. This water is associated with the Slope
Current flowing northward from the Rockall Trough along the Scottish shelf
edge into the Norwegian Sea.
°C) flows clockwise around the Faroe plateau before turning northward in the
Faroe-Shetland Channel to flow parallel to but offshore of the NAW. MNAW
dominates the surface waters in the channel in terms of areal extent.
Typically the surface waters occupy the upper 200-400 m of the water column,
and are thickest under the core of the NAW close to the west Shetland shelf
edge. NAW consists of two branches of originally the same water mass. One
branch flows from the southwest through the channel and one branch turns
northwards to the southwest of the Faroes and crosses the Faroe-Iceland Ridge.
It then flows clockwise around the Faroe Plateau, arriving in the Faroe-Shetland
Channel from the northeast (Hansen & Østerhus 2000). A smaller fraction
of this water may escape through the Faroe Bank Channel. MNAW recirculates
within the channel to join the warmer and more saline NAW to flow into the
Norwegian Sea (Van Aken 1988).
current speed is low on the Faroese side of the Faroe-Shetland Channel, mostly
below 5 cm/s and flowing southwest. The majority is then circulated
anti-clockwise and in turn transported northeast with higher speeds. On the
Scottish slope the mean flow exceeds 20 cm/s (Hansen et al. 1999; Turrell et
al. 1999). The flow of Atlantic water (NAW + MNAW) through the Faroe-Shetland
Channel, into the Nordic seas is estimated to be 3.7x106 m3/s
(Hansen et al. 2000). In addition about 1.3x106 m3/s
enter the Faroe-Shetland Channel to the southeast of the Faroes.
the surface layer waters, colder East Icelandic/Arctic Intermediate Water (EI/AIW)
arrives from the north on the eastern Faroe Plateau slope and mixes with the
modified North Atlantic water. AIW
(2-5.5 °C) flows anticlockwise along the southern edge of the Norwegian Sea
Basin and around the Faroe-Shetland Channel. It occupies a band across the
channel, lying at a depth of 300-600 m on the western side of the channel,
beneath the MNAW. The water flows in southern and southwestern direction, and
is then occupied by the MNAW to the south-southeast of the Faroes. On the
Scottish side of the Faroe-Shetland Channel little of this water occurs
(Hansen et al. 2000).
to sinking of surface water in the Arctic Ocean and Nordic seas, an overflow
of cold and somewhat less saline water is pushed through the deepest part of
the Faroe-Shetland Channel, below about 600 m depth. Two different water
masses occur in this part of the Channel. First is the Norwegian Sea Arctic
Intermediate water (NSAIW) between ÷0.5 and +0.5 °C and below that is the
Norwegian Sea Deep Water (NSDW) colder than ÷0.5 °C (Hansen & Østerhus
2000). The water follows the lowest passage and therefore turns northwards
south of the Faroes and is pushed with high speed through the narrow Faroe
Bank Channel (Hansen & Kristiansen 1999).
total flow of this water is estimated at about 1.9x106 m3/s
(Østerhus et al. 1999). The current speed is variable, depending on the
location in the Faroe-Shetland Channel. As the channel is funnel-shaped the
speed increases and culminates in the narrow Faroe Bank Channel where the
maximum velocity exceeds 1 m/s (Østerhus et al. 1999; Hansen &
Temperature and salinity
(1990) mapped temperature variations throughout much of the Faroe-Shetland
Channel. On the West Shetland Slope, a 0 °C isotherm ranging from 400-800 m
and a 7 °C isotherm ranging from 300-500 m is indicated. Westerberg also
assessed temperature range in terms of temperature variance (standard
deviation), indicating maximal variance at depths between 500 and 600 m. It is
likely that much of the variation in bottom water temperatures encountered at
intermediate depths in the Faroe-Shetland Channel is related to the passage of
hydrographical data provided by Fiskirannsóknarstovan, Johansen (2000) has
prepared vertical profiles of temperature and salinity from the prospective
exploration drilling region (cf. Figure 4.5). These data have been used in the
near field oil drift modelling (cf. Section 3.2.5).
mean wind speed is generally high in the Faroe Islands, particularly in the
autumn and winter. It is normally lowest during summer (4,5-6 m/s) and highest
during winter (6,5-10 m/s). April to August are normally without strong winds,
i.e. full gale, while autumn and winter are particularly windy with numerous
gales, usually blowing from the west and south west. Vigorous development of
cyclones are typically an autumn and winter phenomenon, sometimes with wind
speeds of more than 40 m/s and gusts above 70 m/s. Though the general climate
is very windy, calm periods do occur, most often in midsummer, but then only
for very short periods. Wind speed statistics for three different locations
are shown in Figure 4.6 and 4.7.
Mykines lighthouse the wind blows for more than 40% of the time from either
the north or southeast. Winds from the northwest rarely occur. As this picture
differs markedly from that at the other stations it is assumed that local
topography is causing this variation.
Winds from the
south west to west occur most often at Akraberg lighthouse. At this
southernmost point in the islands the climate is very windy, and the highest
mean 10 - minutes wind speed (10.2 m/s) occurs here in December.
shows more or less the same frequency of wind direction as Akraberg
lighthouse, but generally the winds are weaker. The percentage of calm wind is
higher at Tórshavn than at the other stations.
formation of waves is a function of wind speed, duration of the wind and the
wind fetch. Wave statistics for a location at 60.3 ºN and 5.4 ºW are shown
in Table 4.1 and Figure 4.8.
the period 1961-1990 the annual mean temperature in Tórshavn was
approximately 6.5 °C. Mean temperatures were around 3.5 °C in January and
February and about 10.5 °C in July and August. The temperature fluctuations
are generally small. A maximum of 24 °C is observed at Vága airport, while
the temperature sometimes drops below 0 °C during wintertime. Mean
temperatures per month and on an annual basis are shown in Table 4.2.
oceanic location, combined with the polar front and frequent passages of
cyclones, causes an extremely large number of cloudy days, 221 days in
Tórshavn. During the period 1961-1990 an average of only 1.9 days per year in
Tórshavn could be classified as clear, i.e. with a cloud cover of less than
20%. In the same period the average cloud cover was 81%, the highest being 84%
in July and August and the lowest being 79% in April.
annual number of days with fog in Tórshavn is 40. June, July and August are
the foggiest months with an average of more than seven foggy days per month
(cf. Table 4.3).
Faroe Islands are contained within the OSPAR region I: Arctic Waters, and
reference is made to the recently published status report for this region (OSPAR
2000b), as well as the main Quality Status Report 2000 (OSPAR 2000a) and other
relevant literature. Focus is placed on the background concentrations of heavy
metals and persistent organic contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls,
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons etc.
heavy metals, background concentrations are related to the normal chemistry or
geochemistry of the area concerned. Metals such as cadmium and mercury are
found in higher concentrations in areas around Greenland and Iceland than in
other parts of the OSPAR Convention area. These levels are explained by
natural factors such as sediments of different geological origin and different
physical/ chemical conditions.
Arctic waters, cadmium
concentrations of 8 ng/l have been measured in surface waters, while at
greater depths, concentrations ranged from 13 – 21 ng/l. Cadmium
concentrations are generally low
in the surface sediments, depending of the content of fine grained material.
Concentrations in blue mussels are generally lower in Faroese and Norwegian
waters (range 0.12–0.35 mg/kg ww) than in Greenland waters (range 0.56–1.25
mg/kg ww). Liver concentrations of cadmium in fish can be high in deep-water
fish with a long-life span. Concentrations up to 93 mg/kg ww were found in the
kidneys of pilot whales from the Faroe Islands. Recommended limit for cadmium
in food for human consumption is 0.3–0.5 mg/kg ww (OSPAR 2000b)
is little information on mercury
concentrations in seawater in the Arctic waters area. Total dissolved mercury
concentrations in unpolluted ocean water are within the range 0.2 – 1 ng/l,
with higher concentrations in coastal waters. Mercury levels in blue mussels
vary little between the different areas, with most values reported between
0.01 and 0.02 mg/kg ww. In mammals, the highest concentrations are usually
found in liver tissue, followed by kidney and muscle. Mercury levels in the
muscle tissue of pilot whales ranged from 0.9 to 2.7 mg/kg ww (Dam & Bloch
2000), which is high relative to standards set for human consumption (0.3–0.5
these waters, lead is considered to
be of less toxicological importance than cadmium and mercury. Lead
concentrations of 15 ng/l in oceanic surface waters, and 3 to 4 ng/l at 1,500
– 2000 meters depth have been reported. Lead levels in fish from OSPAR
Region I are generally low. Reported levels in blue mussel range from 0.1–0.48
Iceland and in the Faroe Islands, copper levels reflect the natural levels in rock of volcanic origin
and is not considered to be an element of concern for the marine environment
in this region.
Persistent Organic Contaminants
the case of synthetic substances such as many of the persistent organic
contaminants, there is no natural concentration, which implies that the
natural background level should in principle be zero. However, due to their
ubiquitous presence in marine environment, background concentrations are also
identified for some of these compounds.
of Tributyltin (TBT) in sediments
are much slower than in water, and sediments are thus an important
environmental compartment and sink for TBT. Imposex
characteristics have been found in mussels and snails from the
coasts of Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Svalbard. Concentrations of
TBT in affected populations range from 50 to 2,676 mg/kg
dw, while unaffected populations from northern Norway had levels of less than
the detection limit (17 mg/kg
are hydrophobic compounds; i.e. they have extremely low water solubility.
Concentrations in ocean water are generally very low and reliable
quantification is difficult. Concentration levels of PCB in blue mussel in
coastal waters range from 0.5 – 1.4 µg/kg ww. Average concentrations in
Atlantic cod range from 63 mg/kg
ww in the Faroe Islands to 392 mg/kg
ww off the coast of Norway in the Barents Sea. Mean concentrations of sum PCB
in pilot whale blubber from the Faroe Islands were 11.9 mg/kg ww (Dam &
activities are generally adapted as the most important source of Polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) released into the environment. Sediments are
the most important reservoir of PAHs in the marine environment. Generally the
levels in the open ocean are in the low ng/l range. Only limited information
is available on PAHs in marine biota from OSPAR Region I. The results indicate
levels similar to those thought to reflect global background conditions. A few
blue mussel samples from northern Norway contained concentrations in the range
of 18 to 76 mg/kg
persistent organic compounds.
Within OSPAR Region I the lowest levels of HCB, HCHs, DDTs and chlordanes in
liver of cod were found from different stocks in Icelandic and Faroese waters.
Reported levels were in the range of 1-153 mg/kg
ww HCHs and 12-118 mg/kg
study to establish baseline levels of chemical components in sediment and fish
from the Faroese waters has been performed by RF-Rogaland Research (Grøsvik
et al. 2000). Greenland halibut was chosen as the monitoring species. The
results demonstrated low levels of metals and not detectable levels of total
hydrocarbon or single compounds of PAH. All data supported the
characterization of the sediment to be uncontaminated. Levels of metal in fish
liver were found to be generally low. No detectable levels of single
components of PAH in fish muscle were found.
section forms an outline of the focal environmental issues selected during the
screening and scoping phase of the EIA (GEMS 2000a, cf. Table 4.6), and
include description of the biological characteristics considered relevant for
the assessment of likely impact and analysis of environmental risk of the
activity described in Section 3. Emphasis is placed on the temporal and
spatial distribution and abundance of the resources, i.e. factors considered
of vital importance to the species and population vulnerability.
forms a crucial part of the marine food web. Two main groups are recognised,
the primary producers, i.e. the phytoplankton, and the primary consumers, i.e.
the zooplankton. The zooplankton is in turn important food for fish and fish
larvae as well as whales. Both groups are incapable of swimming against
currents and are usually transported passively with the water flow.
oceanographic conditions described in Section 4.2 provide quite different
environmental conditions for the plankton on the shelf compared to the outer
areas. Inside the tidal front, the water column is relatively homogenous
throughout the summer and the plankton at the shelf is relatively isolated
from the outer area. In the open sea, a thermocline provides stratification of
the water column during summer, forming a prerequisite for the plankton bloom.
Thus, the shelf area has its own plankton ecosystem, separated from the
surrounding waters (Gaard 1996a). As shown in Table 4.7, the primary
production starts earlier inside the front in spring and also declines earlier
in autumn than outside the front.
primary production occurs almost entirely in the summer period; about 80% of
the primary production has shown to be produced within the four-month period
from May to August. The total production however, varies from year to year (Gaard
1996a; Debes 2000).
phytoplankton spring bloom on the shelf develops in late April-early May,
about one month earlier than outside the tidal front. During spring and summer
the biomass tend to be significantly higher in the Faroe Shelf water and in
the frontal region than outside the front. Decline of the primary production
has been observed from mid July because of nutrient limitations (Gaard 1996a).
pre-requisite for the plankton bloom in the Faroe-Shetland Channel, the summer
thermocline, is usually established early May between 20 and 50 m depth.
During late June, the nutrient level decreases and a corresponding decrease in
primary production becomes evident. In the Faroe-Shetland Channel the mixing
of the water column is more likely, and some peaks in production may be
apparent in late autumn.
growth of the phytoplankton is characterised by successional patterns (Gaard
1996a; Debes 2000). The strong turbulence on the Faroe shelf favour diatoms
and such species dominate in the early phase of the spring bloom. In later
phases, the larger diatoms tend to be outcompeted by smaller diatoms,
flagellates and the colony-forming Phaeocystis
succession pattern is less pronounced in the waters of the Faroe-Shetland
channel. The abundance of oceanic species, such as coccolithophorids, may be
temporally significant (Debes 2000).
general, the peak of the zooplankton growth corresponds to the phytoplankton
bloom, but is slightly displaced in time. The biomass however, varies from
year to year (Gaard 1996b). A key characteristic of most zooplankton species
is the diurnal vertical migration pattern; the day is spent in the deeper part
of the water column, while the night is spent in the upper layers grazing on
zooplankton of the Faroese waters is dominated by the copepod Calanus
finmarchicus (Gaard 1996b). This species is widely distributed all over
the northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters (Sundby 2000, cf. Figure 4.9).
However, the annual abundance in the North Sea has declined steadily since the
late 1950s (FRS 1999).
the Faroese waters, typical trends of the life cycle are recognised. The
summer is spent in the upper layers of the water column. During winter, large
quantities are advected with the overflow water through the deep part of the
Faroe-Shetland and Faroe Bank channels (> 500 m). In spring they ascend
towards the surface, and in May, most of the population is confined to the
upper 100-150 m layers (Debes 2000). At that time the female produces a small
number of eggs. The main reproductive output from the wintering stock is
triggered by the spring plankton bloom (FRS 1999).
ascending from the deep waters, the C.
finmarchicus is swept away to the north-east by the predominant currents,
and in this respect, the Faroe-Shetland Channel is considered the main region
supplying copepods to the North Sea during the spring (FRS 1999; Debes 2000).
years the zooplankton on the shelf is quite different from that in the
surrounding area. The species diversity is higher and includes several neritic
species and meroplanktonic larvae. However, significant numbers of C.
finmarchicus may be advected into the Faroe shelf during the spring and
summer, and such pattern affects the shelf ecosystem significantly. (The
western shelf is considered the main inflow, and the Faroe Plateau cod seems
to have a spawning strategy directly related to the inflow pattern.) Studies
in the early 1990s have shown that the abundance of C.
finmarchicus may be much higher on the Faroe Plateau than outside the
front in the autumn (Debes 2000).
species such as krill (mainly Meganyctiphanes
norvegica and probably Thysanoessa
inermis) occur in large quantities all over the northeast Atlantic and the
Nordic seas, but their dynamics are less well understood.
Faroese waters hold large stocks of several fish species, also including
species of vital importance to the Faroese fisheries (cf. Section 4.5). On the
basis of habitat, the fish fauna can be divided into demersal species, i.e. species living close to the bottom, and pelagic
species, i.e. species living in the water column.
commercially important fish stocks are surveyed on an annual basis by
Fiskirannsóknarstovan. The results are reported to the International Council
for Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which is responsible for the overall
assessment and scientific advice on sustainable stocks and fishing levels.
the following species, population estimates in Faroese waters are not
three most important commercial demersal species are cod, haddock and saithe.
The cod and haddock populations spend their entire life in Faroese waters.
Also the adult saithe of the Faroe plateau are considered a distinct
population without any significant communication with other stocks of saithe,
e.g. in the waters of Iceland, west of Scotland, and the North Sea.
cod (Gadus morhua) of the Faroese waters form two separate stocks, one
located at the Faroe Plateau and the other at the Faroe Bank (cf. Jákupsstovu
1999; Toftum 1998). One stock spawns from late February to early May in two
distinct spawning areas to the north and the west of the islands. The eggs and
larvae drift in the anticyclonic circulation of the shelf water. After
spawning the stock is dispersed over the entire Plateau at depths down to 350
m. The other stock spawns from March to May in the shallow water of the Bank,
and the eggs and larvae drift in the anticyclonic current of this area. The
main spawning areas are shown in Figure 4.10.
haddock (Mellanogrammus aeglefinus) spawns from March to May at depths
between 50 and 200 m. Spawning takes place all over the Faroe Plateau.
However, four main spawning areas, to the north, north-west and south-east of
the islands, have been identified (cf. Figure 4.11).
Saithe (Pollachius virens) is
widely distributed in the Faroese waters. Spawning takes place at 150-250 m
depth east and north of the islands from January to April. The pelagic eggs
and larvae drift with the anticyclonic current on the Plateau until May-June,
when the juveniles migrate inshore. The subsequent two years are spent in the
shallow coastal waters.
main species of the pelagic fisheries are the blue whiting, herring and
mackerel (Jákupsstovu 1999; Toftum 1998). Except for the local
summer-spawning herring, the stocks are widely distributed. The population
trends are indicated in table 4.12 to 4.14.
(Clupea harengus). The
feeding and wintering areas of the Atlanto-Scandian spring-spawning herring
are located in the Norwegian Sea north of the Faroes. The spawning takes place
along the Norwegian coast in March. Before the stock collapsed in the late
1960s, however, significant spawning of this stock also took place on the
Eastern banks of the Faroe Plateau, e.g. Sandoyar Banki, Nólsoyar Banki and
Suðuroyar Banki. The west of Scotland autumn-spawning herring spawns west of
Scotland in the autumn.
Atlanto-Scandian herring is found in northern parts of Faroese waters in late
April, May and June, while herring from the west of Scotland autumn-spawning
stock in some years reach the southern parts of the Faroe Plateau during their
feeding migration west of the British Isles.
poutassou). The blue whiting
spawns west of the British Isles. Spawning takes place in late winter–early
spring. After spawning the stock migrates northwards to feed, enters Faroese
waters in about May, and continue a slow migration northwards before it turn
south again in the early winter and heads towards the spawning area.
a result of the seasonal migration pattern significant parts of the stock are
periodically found in Faroese waters (Jákupsstovu 1999). The shelf break
around the Faroe Plateau forms an important nursery area to the blue whiting,
and after spawning, the bulk of the stock passes the Faroese waters in depths
of 300-400 m on both sides of the islands.
(Scomber scombrus). The mackerel does not spawn in the Faroese
waters, but primarily migrates along the eastern slope of the Faroe Plateau
and in the Faroe-Shetland channel from the spawning area southwest of Ireland
after spawning in February to July (cf. Iversen 2001, Figure 4.15). The
mackerel passes Faroese waters again during winter when returning to the
spawning area, but is also found and caught in large numbers during the
Faroe Islands are of international importance for a number of bird species.
More than 275 bird species have been recorded. The majority of these are rare
or irregular visitors, and only about 50 species breed regularly (Grimmett
& Jones, 1989; Bloch et al. 1996). Three groups of birds utilise Faroese
waters, split by habitat: offshore, inshore and coastal. The offshore group
includes fulmars, storm-petrels, shearwaters, gannets, skuas, gulls and auks.
These birds breed on the Faroes, but frequently feed far offshore. In winter,
they associate less with their nesting sites and range considerable distances
in search of food. Inshore birds include divers, shags, seaducks, terns, some
gulls and the black guillemot. These birds normally occur within sight of
land, but may on occasion use sites further offshore. Although large numbers
of some of these birds breed in the Faroes, others occur in the area during
the winter or on migration. The coastal bird population is composed of wading
birds and waterfowl, although these have small populations in the Faroes due
to the scarcity of suitable inter-tidal areas.
colonies of seabirds on the Faroe Islands hold a large proportion of the
Atlantic breeding populations of seabirds. The productive waters around the
islands provide important foraging areas for seabirds all year round, and the
steep cliffs, grass-covered slopes and boulder screes facing the sea form
ideal nesting sites. The location of the most important bird cliffs and colony
sites are indicated in Figure 4.16.
sites within the Faroe Islands are considered important for their breeding
seabird populations; of these, twelve are considered to be seabird colonies
only (Grimmett & Jones 1989), while the six other sites are known to
support other birds, although only very small populations. Fifteen of these
sites support 1% or more of the world’s population of several seabird
species and 13 out of the 19 breeding seabird species exceed 1% of the total
storm petrel and kittiwake numbers exceed 10% of the European total, and Manx
shearwater and puffin numbers are just less than 10%. At an international
level, European storm petrel numbers are very important; the islands probably
hold about 40% of the world population, with one island, Nólsoy, probably
containing 17% of the world population, with 100,000 pairs (Durinck et
al. 2001). Fulmars and puffins are the most numerous breeders, followed by
European storm petrels and kittiwakes (cf. Table 4.15).
distribution of seabirds can be characterised by significant temporal and
spatial variability. Much of the variability however, can be related to the
annual cycle of the different species. The annual cycle of seabirds can be
divided into 6 stages: wintering; roaming/foraging at sea; migration;
breeding; non-breeding; moulting (e.g. Strand et al. 1993). A description of
the annual cycle of seabird species at sea was compiled in 1955. For all the
10 species presented, a correlation between the peak of the plankton bloom and
the abundance of seabirds at sea is clearly demonstrated (Salomonsen 1955).
summer breeding period, the proportion of the different populations change,
and the species are present and carry out their breeding cycle in distinct
periods (Salomonsen 1955), as indicated in table 4.16. During this period they
do not travel far from the breeding colonies, and the concentrations in
inshore areas are therefore very high.
Annual cycle of Faroese seabirds.
Increased abundance indicated by darker shading. Source: Salomonsen (1955).
highest concentrations of seabirds in the Faroes are clearly found during the
summer/breeding period. In the winter, most Faroese birds migrate away from
the islands, to many parts of Europe, particularly Norway, the North Sea and
to UK. Migration of seabirds is among others documented in a comprehensive
study by Olsen et al. (2000) with the following conclusions:
seasonal distribution of Guillemots shows a patchy distribution with the
highest densities in the breeding period not further away from the colonies
than 60 km (Figure 4.18). In late autumn and winter the guillemots had vacated
the entire area except for areas around Sandoyarbanki and Suduroyarbanki
around the 200 m contours.
arrive to the breeding colonies from mid April and high concentrations are
observed near Sandoy and Fugloy and in the area of Sandoyarbanki in waters
less than or around 200 m depth (Figure 4.19). In the breeding period the
birds are congregated around the islands. Puffins move away from the colonies
in late August and many birds disperse over the Iceland-Faeroe Ridge.
the Faroe Islands’ game legislation all birds are protected from hunting
within the 200 nautical mile fishing limits, except Fulmar, Manx shearwater,
Gannet, Shag, Arctic skua, Great skua, Common gull, Lesser black-backed gull,
Herring gull, Great black-backed gull, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill,
Puffin, Raven and Carrion Crow. The game legislation also cites 31 areas as
protected against shooting, closer than three miles from the coast and due to
old traditions all seabird breeding colonies are treated as sanctuaries (Olsen
et al. 2000).
waters around the Faroe Islands are inhabited by a large number of marine
mammal species, in whole or parts of the year (Table 4.17). The marine mammals
may be divided in two groups, seals and whales. Among seals, it is only the
grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) that
currently is breeding in the Faroes and which are found throughout the year.
The grey seals are mainly confined to the coastal areas of the Faroes, but the
present knowledge about this species is sparse (Bloch et al. 2000). The
occurrence of other species is sporadic. Hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) migrate periodically from further north, and
are then in fairly high numbers.
whales, there are at least 13 species that regularly inhabit Faroese waters
during whole or parts of the year, mainly on their annual feeding migration
(Bloch et al. 2000).
most important and abundant whale species in the Faroe area is the long-finned
pilot whale (Globicephala melaena)
or grind, a medium-sized toothed whale. Pods from the Atlantic population
enter Faroese coastal waters, especially in late summer. The species is
exploited in a traditional hunt for subsistence purposes. Records of numbers
caught date back to 1584 and show that the occurrence in Faroese waters
undergoes periodic fluctuations. The hunt has been regulated since 1832 by
specific grind regulations. The numbers taken in 1986-1988, which has been
regarded as good pilot whale years, have been around 1,600 individuals.
The fin whale is the most abundant of the large baleen whales in the area.
Faroese commercial whaling began in 1894 and targeted this species especially.
Fin whales were the most common whale species taken in the whaling period 1894–1984,
with at least 7,580 individuals shot. In the period 1894–1979, a total of
2,200 sei whales were shot, making this species the second most common hunted
baleen whale. Sei whales seem to pass the area in the same manner as the blue
whale with concentrations at the shelf borders, around the banks and over the
minke whale is the smallest and most numerous of the baleen whales, with an
estimated population size of about 200,000 in the North Atlantic (Table 4.20).
About 10,000-15,000 individuals occur in Faroese waters. This species was
never hunted commercially by the Faroese because of its small size, but a few
(121 in the period 1960-1977) were shot for domestic human consumption.
Otherwise, Norway has hunted more than 1,000 minke whales commercially from
the Faroese area in the period 1938-1983. The distribution pattern from the
Norwegian catch shows a high occurence between the islands especially in
August and with fewer records offshore and only in high summer.
seasonal occurence of different whale species in Faroese waters is indicated
in Table 4.18. Some general conclusions regarding the distribution of whale
species are given by Bloch et al. (2000) as follows:
greatest number of whales and the greatest variety of whale species in the
Faroese region has been observed in a broad belt along the Wyville-Thomson
Ridge from Shetland to the Faroe Islands and the Faroe-Iceland Ridge from the
Faroe Islands to East Iceland.
distribution pattern indicates that the shelf border and the northern side of
the ridges are main feeding grounds for whales.
whales usually remain in the main feeding areas in large concentrations and
for a long period of time.
Shallow water habitat
typical morphology of the Faroese coast forms the basis for a variety of
habitats, ranging from heavily exposed to the more sheltered waters in the
narrow sounds between the islands and in the fjords. The habitats are
dominated by rocky substrate, i.e. cliffs, rock and boulders, only a few
isolated soft-bottom habitats, i.e. sand, silt and clay, are located in inner
sounds and fjords (Bruntse et al. 1999; Moore et al. 2001, cf. Figure 4.21).
tidal amplitude is generally low -up to 2 m in outer parts of the islands to
the west and in some cases absent- and the vertical zonation pattern typical
for rocky shore communities are therefore locally less pronounced. The
relation between wave exposure and the distribution and abundance of the flora
and fauna however, has recently been demonstrated in a large-scale survey of
the shallow water habitats (Bruntse et al. 1999).
the exposed shores, the supralittoral is dominated by lichens, while red alga,
barnacles and mussels are common in the littoral zone. At moderately exposed
to sheltered sites, the fucoids are found in large numbers. The associated
fauna is numerous and highly diverse, with significant contributions of
gastropods, mussels and crustaceans (isopods and amphipods).
the soft-bottom habitats of the fjords and the sounds, polychaetes and
bivalves are the dominating species groups both in numbers and diversity.
are the dominating alga in the lower littoral and the sublittoral zones almost
all along the exposure scale, forming dense forests with a highly diverse
inflora and -fauna. A total of 21 algae and 100 invertebrate species have been
observed (Bruntse et al. 1999). These habitats are highly productive, and also
provide nursery areas for commercial fish species like the saithe.
Deep water habitat
deep-water seabed communities of the Faroese waters are not known in
quantitative details. However, the large scale Marine Benthic Fauna of the
Faroe Islands programmes (BIOFAR I 1987-1991 and BIOFAR II 1995-1998) and the
Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network (AFEN 1996-1999) have made significant
contributions to the understanding of the faunal assemblages and their
dynamics. BIOFAR II was focused on shallow waters, while the AFEN surveys were
designed as baseline studies for the planned petroleum activities (AFEN 1999;
Bett et al. 2000). Some patterns can
also be derived from general biological knowledge and physical characteristics
(cf. Section 4.1).
A wide variety
of sediment types are found in nearshore waters (AFEN 1999; Bruntse et al.
1999; Bruntse & Tendal 2000; Bett et al. 2000). Gravel and stone mixed
with sand and fine sand is the most common sediment type around the Faroes
from about 300 to 1000 m depth. On the Faroe Plateau, the sediment is
predominantly sand, only few and small areas are characterised by muddy
substrate. In depressions on the shelf and in deeper water silt and clay
become more prominent. There are also areas of outcropping bedrock,
particularly in the shallower waters near the coast and in areas with strong
current regimes. At large depths (> 1,000 m) extensive areas are covered by
silty substrate more or less mixed with fine sand, cf. Section 4.1.
sediments reflect low sedimentation rates, and in general, the level of
organic material is low. The sediments on the shelf are also subjected to
resuspension during storms. Consequently, a dominance of filter feeding
species and species that are well adapted to periodic physical disturbance are
most likely on the shelf. In areas of finer sediments, like the deep-water
seabed, the degree of natural disturbance is lower and the organic loading in
the seabed correspondingly higher. Both factors indicate a dominance of
deposit feeders, which in general are also less well adapted to disturbance.
In two larger soft-bottom areas investigated during BIOFAR, south-east and
south-west of the Plateau at 300-350 m depth, the fauna was dominated by
polychaetes followed by molluscs.
outstanding assemblages are denoted in particular in a review of the BIOFAR
results made for GEMS by Bruntse & Tendal (2000):
The horse mussel, Modiolus modiolus,
is very common in the Faroes and is frequently found in large mussel beds at
depth from the lower shore inside the fjords to about 200 m depth on the
plateau. Up to 220 mussels per square meter has been observed, and the number
of associated species (more than 143 species) counts for a highly productive
and diverse community. The horse mussel beds are considered important as
foraging area for cod.
– Cheese bottoms.
Large sponges are dominating in Faroese shelf and slope areas as well as the
banks to the west, and such assemblages can be made up by up to 50 different
sponge species. The distribution pattern of ostur shows long narrow zones
close to the shelf bank in depths from about 250 to 500 m. The large and
slow-growing sponges make significant contributions to the heterogeneity of
the habitat, and although the sponge constitutes 90% of the biomass, a very
rich fauna (> 242 species) have shown to be associated with the dominant
The deep water coral Lophelia pertusa
is widely distributed in the North Atlantic and adjacent seas. The BIOFAR
results indicate peak abundance at depths between 250 and 450 m,
geographically located on the shelf slope. In some areas the species is a
colonial bank-forming coral, building structures several hundred meters in
diameter and rising several meters above the sea floor. 298 faunal species
have been observed associated with this substrate. In the areas west of
Shetland and in the Faroe-Shetland channel only small isolated colonies of the
coral have been found.
octocoral Paragorgia arborea is
known from several locations in the Faroes, mainly at depths of 260-650 m. The
largest structures observed, about 2.5 m, indicate an age of at least 1,500
The queen scallop, Aequipecten
opercularis, is common all over the Faroe area, in waters outside the
islands at depths of 50-200 m and sporadically in the fjords. Two areas of
particular high concentrations are located on the Faroe Plateau, one to the
north of the northern islands and the other east of the central islands.
Together, these two areas make up a total of 400 km2.
areas within the Islands have been designated as areas for protection under
the Faroese Act of Parliament No 48, 1970 of Natural conservation, ammended by
Act No 64, 1995. According to Section 9 in the Act the area should be
preserved ...“in its natural state,
protecting plants, animals and geological formations in their original form,
especially from all construction, erection of masts, housing or similar, which
may be deemed as unattractive, as well as the removal of stones, rocks, beach,
sand, clay, plants and animals is prohibited”.
It is believed
that the reasoning behind the protection of areas is not only their inherent
nature conservation value but also to guard against damage by man’s
activities. The two areas protected are “Mølheyggjarnir heima á Sandi”
on the island of Sandoy and “Leynar” on the island of Streymoy (Figure
4.22). The Faroe Islands also possess many sites of historical interest. These
include monuments and remains from various Ages. Figure 4.22 also shows
archaeological sites in the Faroe Islands.
Structure and importance
Faroese economy is heavily dependent upon fisheries. Fishing, fish farming and
associated processing industry account for almost 95% of all export from the
islands. The Faroese fisheries outside Faroese waters obtained within bi- and
multilateral agreements account for about half of the total income from all
fisheries. In national waters, the Faroese Government has passed legislation
that restricts fishing by specific gear-types and areas at certain times of
the year. Since 1975 there has been a considerable expansion of the fishing
fleet, although this has not resulted in a corresponding increase in catch.
The fleet (in 1999) consists of 78 trawlers, 41 long-liners and seiners and 69
wooden liners and trawlers. The newest segment of the fleet is the 6 deep-sea
factory trawlers (FAO 1999).
fisheries traditionally takes place in the immediate area of the Faroe
Islands, in middle areas and in distant waters. The introduction of the 200
nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in 1977, changed the pattern from
dependency primarily on the middle areas to relatively more dependency on the
national fishing territory and the near area.
may be considered a multi-fleet and multi-species fishery. The long-liners
fish mainly cod and haddock; in addition, some long-liners fish in deep water
for ling and tusk. Most of the trawlers fish cod, haddock and saithe, while
some large trawlers fish in deeper waters for redfish, blue ling and Greenland
halibut. Figure 4.23 gives the starting position for gear deployment of
different fishing vessels in 1999, indicating where fishing takes place.
or frozen fillets are the most important export item, with sales of DKK 727
million, followed by whole-fish sales at DKK 561 million (FAO 1999). Exports
to EU are dominant, at more than 80% of all exports, followed by Norway, USA
demersal fisheries of the Faroes are mainly based on single-boat trawlers,
larger pair trawlers, larger long-liners and gill-net vessels (Toftum 1998;
Jákupsstovu 1999). In 1977 an EEZ was introduced in the Faroe area. The
demersal fishery by foreign nations has since decreased and Faroese vessels
now take most of the catches. In 1996, Faroese vessels accounted for more than
95% of the total landings of the most commercially important demersal fish
species. The area west of the Faroe Plateau forms a core area for the fishing
activity, which takes place almost all year round, but with peaks during
The three most
commercially important demersal species fished for in Faroese waters are cod,
haddock and saithe and in good years, annual catches for these three species
can total 90,000 tonnes. The
overall sustainable demersal fishery is estimated at 120,000 - 150,000 tonnes
per year (Reinert, J, pers. comm.).
Fishing for the main commercially important demersal species by large trawling
vessels, takes place all around the Faroe Islands to depths of 300-600 m all
year. However, among the smaller vessels fishing effort is greatest in the
spawning areas during the spawning season (Table 4.19) when large numbers of
adult fish tend to concentrate over known areas. In particular the area to the
north of the Islands is an important spawning area. After spawning, the
continental shelf stocks disperse throughout the shelf area, where fishing
takes place all year.
three principal species targeted by pelagic fisheries are blue whiting,
herring and mackerel. Although
none of these species are present to spawn in the waters around the Faroe
Islands, they migrate to the area from distant spawning and nursery areas. In
general, fishing for pelagic species occurs along migration routes and within
known feeding areas and therefore tends to be more seasonal than the demersal
fisheries. The location of the main fishing grounds is based on migration
catches account for about 80% of the total landings from pelagic fisheries in
Faroese waters. The effort follows the distribution pattern of the individual
blue whiting is caught by pelagic trawl, mainly in the area around the
southern tip of the Faroe Plateau. The catches by Faroese, Norwegian and EU
vessels are mainly taken in late April through May, while the Russian effort
is almost equally spread throughout the year.
offshore Faroese waters, herring is almost exclusively caught by purse seine.
Most of the Atlanto-Scandian herring is taken in the Norwegian Sea, north of
the Faroe Plateau, while the eastern and southern areas seem most important
for the fisheries on the Scotland autumn spawning stock. The local,
summer-spawning stock of herring is caught by gill nets in the fjords and
is caught by purse seine and pelagic trawls. There is a peak in the effort
corresponding to the migration and feeding period of the mackerel, i.e.
June-September. The location of the fishing areas have varied over time.
demersal fishing in the Faroese waters is regulated by a complicated system of
licences, area closures, effort allowances and minimum-by-catch restrictions.
The fisheries for cod, saithe and haddock are regulated by the number of days,
which are allocated to the vessels fishing these species. Large, single-boat
trawlers (> 1000 Hp), which only to a small extent target cod, saithe and
haddock, are allowed a maximum-by-catch of these species of 7 % by weight.
no trawling is allowed within twelve nautical miles of the Faroese territorial
baseline. However, during summer, 10-15 small trawlers (< 500 Hp) are
allowed to fish in specified areas within this limit, mainly targeting lemon
sole and plaice. In addition some areas both inside and outside the twelve
nautical mile limit are closed for all gear during the main spawning period.
Four large areas outside the twelve nautical mile limit are closed throughout
the year to all trawl fishery. Spawning areas for cod and saithe are also
closed during the main spawning season, and neighbouring areas are closed
prior to, and immediately after the spawning season. The Faroe Bank shallower
than 200 m is also closed to trawling (ACFM 2000).
close co-operation with the fishing industry, the Faroese government has
developed a new system for catch quota management, the “fishing day per boat”
system, based on within fleet category individual transferable quotas in days.
The new system entered into force on 1 June 1996. The individual transferable
effort quotas apply to 1) the long-liners less than 100 GRT, the jiggers and
the single trawlers less than 400 Hp, 2) the pair trawlers and 3) the
long-liners greater than 100 GRT. Single trawlers greater that 400 Hp do not
have effort limitations. The effort quotas are transferable within gear
categories. In addition to the number of days allocated in the law, it is also
stated what percentage of total catches of cod, haddock, saithe and redfish
each fleet category are allowed to fish.
has developed in the Faroese since the late 1970s. The dominant species is
trout and Atlantic salmon, were production for the latter reached 40,000
tonnes in 2000 (Table 4.20), representing more than 20% of the total export
value. Natural conditions with good quality temperate water all year are
consequently suitable for mariculture, but are in practice somewhat limited by
the few narrow sounds between the islands. During the 1980’s there were over
60 farms in production but this declined to 22 in 1996, although farms
increased in size. In later years the number of farms has again increased to
about 55 (Figure 4.26). Fish farms are located on most islands.
Faroe Islands attract approximately 25,000 tourists per year. The long
stretches of coastline are substantially undeveloped and boast an unspoilt
natural landscape of the highest quality. The scenery throughout the islands
is characterised by dramatic steep cliffs on the west and north coasts and
more gently sloping, fjord coasts to the east. The 750 m high cliffs on the
north coast of the island of Vidoy are the highest sheer cliffs in Europe. Due
to the Islands’ geography, topography and dependence on the sea, all
tourists visiting the Islands gain a close appreciation of the coastline.
main tourist attractions also concentrate upon the sea and coastal
environments. Usual outdoor pursuits include visits to the bird cliffs, cliff
top walking, horse riding, sea angling, SCUBA diving etc.
There are a
number of sand / shingle beaches that are commonly used for recreation,
although none are provided with any amenity facilities (Moore et al. 2001).