Arctic Yearbook 2012
Thawing Ice and French Foreign Policy: A Preliminary Assessment
Norway’s Barents Sea. Snøvhit (at Hammerfest) is the first offshore project in the history of
Barents Sea extractive activities. It is also the first development to export LNG from
Norway to Europe (Kolstad, 2012).
Beyond oil and gas, France also has known interests in the fishing sector. Although France
does not import significant amounts of fish from Arctic markets, yet, its top supplier of
fresh fish or refrigerated fish is Norway, with exports to France totaling 303 million euros in
This supply could increase in the years to come, given the potential of commercial
fishing veering north.
Commercial fishing in the Arctic has gained much attention by third party state powers such
as France who are fish dependent. Recent reports indicate that the French consume more
than they can actually produce inside EU limits. OCEAN2012 estimates that as of 2008,
France had a total of 100 vessels operating in its external fleet (fishing operations outside EU
waters and fishing, for example, in French Overseas Departments and Territories maritime
spaces – DOM-TOM). This corresponded to 14% of the total number of EU vessels
operating outside the Community.
Along with Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany, France sources “more than one half of [its]
fish from non-EU waters” (OCEAN2012/NEF, 2010). As of 2005, the French had the
highest fish consumption rates in the EU, consuming 34.3 kilograms per capita of fish per
year (ibid). Hence, with a structural trade deficit associated with “high consumption of
seafood products and to low and failing domestic supplies,” (AAC, 2007) the French are
therefore major seafood importers in the global market with imports totaling up to 5.8
billion US dollars in 2008.
It is predicted that with warming waters resulting from climate change, fish stocks from the
south will be forced to veer further north from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (EU fishing
zones), thus changing migration and commercial fishing patterns in various parts of the
Arctic maritime space. WWF France has reported that almost half of the entire fish imports
in the EU originate in the Arctic (Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea and Kara Sea).