On 1 September 1972, the enforcement of the law that expanded the Icelandic fishery limits to 50 nm (92.6 km) began. Numerous British and West German trawlers continued fishing within the new zone on the first day. The Icelandic leftist coalition which governed at the time ignored the treaty that stipulated the involvement of the International Court of Justice. It said that it wasn’t bound by agreements made by the previous centre-right government, with Lúdvik Jósepsson, the fisheries minister stating that “the basis for our independence is economic independence”
The next day, the ICGV Ægir chased 16 trawlers in waters east of the country, out of the 50 nmi (93 km) zone.
During this war, the Icelandic Coast Guard started to use net cutters to cut the trawling lines of non-Icelandic vessels fishing within the new exclusion zone. On 18 January 1973, the nets of eighteen trawlers were cut. This forced the British seamen to threaten to leave the Icelandic fishery zone unless they had the protection of the Royal Navy. The day after, large, fast tugboats were sent to their defence. The first was the Statesman. The British considered this insufficient, and formed a special group to defend the trawlers.
On 23 January 1973, the volcano Eldfell on Heimaey erupted and the Coast Guard needed to divert its attention to rescuing the inhabitants of the small island.
On 17 May, the British trawlers left the Icelandic waters, only to return two days later along with British frigates. The Icelandic Lighthouse tender ICGV Árvakur collided with four British vessels on 1 June and six days later V/s Ægir collided with HMS Scylla, when it was reconnoitering for icebergs off the Vestfjords, even though no trawlers were present.
On 16 September, Joseph Luns, Secretary-General of NATO, arrived in Reykjavík to talk with Icelandic ministers, who had been pressed to leave NATO as it had been of no help to the Icelandic people in the conflict. (Britain and Iceland both being members, the Royal Navy made use of Icelandic bases in the cold war as part of its primary NATO duty of guard of the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, particularly against Soviet submarines.)
After a series of talks within NATO, British warships were recalled on 3 October. An agreement was signed on 8 November which limited British fishing activities to certain areas inside the 50 nmi (93 km) limit, resolving the dispute that time. The resolution was based 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.1
- Source: Wikipedia (2012) Cod Wars. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cod_Wars [accessed 15 February 2012] [↩]