Cod War

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A cod fishing boat

The Cod Wars (also called the Iceland Cod Wars) were a series of confrontations between the United Kingdom and Iceland over Iceland's claims of authority over tracts of ocean off their coastline as being their exclusive fishery zone. The name is probably a pun on the term Cold War, although the disputes did not centre purely around fishing rights on the cod.

As fish stocks diminished around the world, the scope for confrontation has increased. Throughout the world, examples exist of a nations' fishing fleets committing systematic incursions into fishing areas considered either "protected" or under the jurisdiction of another country.

In 1972, Iceland - whose quarter of a million population was at that time almost exclusively dependent on fishing - unilaterally extended its territorial waters before announcing plans to reduce over-fishing. It policed its quota-system with its coast guard, leading to a series of net-cutting incidents with the British trawlers that fished the areas. As a result a fleet of British Royal Naval warships was employed to act as a deterrent against any future harassment of British fishing crews by the much smaller Icelandic craft.

In 1976, a compromise between the two countries allowed a maximum of 24 British trawlers access to the disputed 200 nautical mile (320 km) limit. This did not slow the decline of the British fisheries, severely affecting the economies of northern fishing ports in the UK, such as Grimsby and Hull.


The Cod War Of 1893

With the increases in fishing power 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. As a result, in 1893, the Danish Government, who governed Iceland and the Faroe Islands, claimed a fishing limit of 13 nautical miles around their shores. British trawler owners disputed this claim and continued to send their ships to Icelandic waters. Danish gunboats patrolled 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, Great Britain 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 illegally fishing 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, 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 was jailed for thirty days.

With many British trawlers being charged and fined by Danish gunboats for fishing illegally within the 13 mile limit (which the British Government did not 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

The First Cod War, in 1958, was the result of Britain's inability to prevent Iceland from extending its fishing limits from 4 nautical miles (7 km) to 11 miles (19 km) off Iceland's coast.

The Second Cod War

The second dispute occurred between 1972 and 1973. Iceland had extended its limits to 50 miles (80 km). An agreement between the two countries that bound British fishing to certain areas inside the 50 mile (80 km) limit resolved the dispute that time. The resolution was on the premise that British trawlers would limit their annual catch to no more than 130,000 tons. This agreement expired in November, 1975, and the third "Cod War" began.

The Third Cod War

The Third Cod War (November 1975 - June 1976) occurred between the United Kingdom and Iceland. Iceland had declared that the ocean up to 200 miles (320 km) from its coast fell under Icelandic authority. Britain did not recognize the 200 mile exclusion zone, and as a result, there came to be an issue with British fishermen and their 'incursion' into the disputed zone. The 'war', which in fact was hardly a war at all with only a few shots being fired, saw British fishing trawlers have their nets cut by the Icelandic Coast Guard, and there were several incidents of ramming by Icelandic ships and British trawlers and frigates.

Iceland deployed a total of six Coast Guard vessels and two Polish-built stern trawlers which had been converted into Coast Guard vessels to enforce Icelandic control over fishing rights. In response, the United Kingdom deployed a total of twenty-two frigates, seven supply ships, nine tug-boats, and three support ships to protect its fishing trawlers.

A more serious turn of events came when Iceland threatened closure of the NATO base at Keflavk, which would, in the military perception of the time, have severely impaired NATO's ability to defend the Atlantic Ocean from the Soviet Union. As a result, the British government agreed to have its fishermen stay outside Iceland's 200 nautical mile exclusion zone without a specific agreement.

Source of the name

It is believed by some that the name stems from a pun on the term 'Cold War' (with 'cod' reading so similarly to 'cold'), possibly via the British tabloid press - however, the Icelandic name for these 'conflicts' is orskastrin, which can translate into Cod Wars in English. Which term came first is unknown.

See also

External links

nl:Kabeljauwoorlogen no:Torskekrigen pl:Wojny dorszowe


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