Fish Wars

While the general public see recreational angling as a peaceful and relaxing activity, commercial fishing is big business. Such big business that nations have come into conflict over the access to fishing grounds, and, at times, came close to war to protect their own fisheries. Indeed, the Turbot War caused a major diplomatic incident between Canada and Spain, and Britain had thirty-seven Royal Navy warships involved at the height of the Cod Wars with Iceland. Click on the links below to find out more about the times when disputed about fishing have spilled over into conflict between nations.

Cod WarsThe Cod Wars | A series of three separate conflicts between Britain and Iceland between the 1950s and the 1970s over the rights to fish for cod and other whitefish in the North Atlantic.

The Turbot War | A dispute in the 1990s between Canada (backed by Britain and Ireland) and Spain (backed by the EU) over the fishing rights for Greenland Turbot in international waters.

The Dogger Bank Incident | Find out how war between Britain and Russia nearly began in the 1900s when Russian warships attacked British trawlers.

Scarborough Shoal DisputeThe Scarborough Shoal Dispute | Nothing to do with the North Yorkshire town, but an on-going dispute between China and the Philippines over a fishing ground in the South China Sea.

Cherbourg DisputeThe Cherbourg Dispute | A dispute between Britain and France over the rights to fish in the waters around the Channel Islands which showed how arguments over fishing could spill over into conflict.

Mackerel WarsThe Mackerel Wars | An on-going dispute between the Faroe Islands/Iceland and Britain, Ireland, Norway and other EU countries over the quota of mackerel they are entitled to catch.

Falklands Squid WarFalkland Island’s Squid War | Since the Falkland’s War of the early 1980s tension between the Islands and Argentina has risen. In 2012 this spilled over into a conflict over commercial fishing for squid.

TN HMS Ferret (1893)Newlyn Riots | In 1896 rioting in Newlyn was only stopped when the army and Royal Navy were called in. The cause of the trouble: fishermen protesting over outsiders landing fish on a Sunday.

The Flying Fish Dispute | The Caribbean nations of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago clashed over the rights to catch flying fish when this species changed its migratory pattern.

Scallop Conflict | A dispute between British and French fishermen over the rights to dredge for scallops in the Bay of Seine took place in 2012 and re-ignited in 2018.