General Information About The Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are a group of 18 islands about 655 km off the coast of Northern Europe, halfway between Iceland and Norway.
They are divided into six regions and are well connected (six islands are connected by three bridges, four other islands by two subsea tunnels and the rest by ferry).
The infrastructure is still under massive development with two additional subsea tunnels planned to open in 2021. The roads are proper and well kept.
The airport, which has been recently renovated, was built by British Royal Engineers during World War II.
They have been self-governed since 1948 and part of Denmark since 1388. The rocky, rugged islands with steep cliffs were created by volcanic eruptions.
The archipelago has a moderate subpolar oceanic climate that is windy, wet, cool and cloudy all year round, and with temperatures average above freezing all year round. As the islanders say “you may find several seasons in one day”.
50,196 inhabitants in total (in 2015)
- 20.000 in the capital Torshavn
- 5.000 in Klaksvik
- 3.5000 in Runavik
- The rest of the population is spread over 17 islands, (one island is uninhabited).
The population keeps growing fast as every family aims for at least three children. The fertility rate is one of the highest in Europe (2.49 – 2013).
The majority are ethnic Faroese of Norse and Scottish descent.
Christianity was brought to the islands in 999.
Religion is an important part in Faroese culture.
More than 84,1% of the population belong to the established church, the Evangelical-Lutheran, and 10% belong to the Christian Brethren.
The Faroese are very religious and have a strong believe in their culture and tradition.
They believe in family, friends and generally trust people, (we were given the key at the town hall to observe their holy monument in a church, as the church was normally closed).
Faroese is one of the smallest of the Germanic languages.
Written Faroese is similar to Icelandic and to ancient Old Norse, though the spoken language is closer to the Norwegian dialects of the west coast of Norway.
Both Faroese and Danish are official languages. They start learning Danish at the age of nine, most speak good Danish, but some not at all. English is taught from the age of ten.
The levels of education are primary, secondary and higher education.
The public education is free of charge and provided by the municipalities. It is compulsory for the first 9 years (7-16yrs).
The structure of the system is similar to the Danish one.
The fishing industry is an important part of the country’s economy and therefore also the maritime schools are a part of the Faroese education. They have one university and some music schools.
The majority of the young generation continue their studies in Denmark. The older generation hope they will come back to maintain the old traditions.
When the EU embargo against Russia started in 2014, the Faroe Islands were not a part of the embargo because they are not a part of the EU, and the islands had just themselves experienced a year of embargo from the EU (including Denmark) against them. The Faroese prime minister Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen went to Moscow to negotiate trade between the two countries. The Faroese Minister of Fisheries negotiated with the EU and other countries regarding the rights to fish and then began exporting significant amounts of fresh salmon to Russia.
The EU has accused the Faroe Islands of overfishing and imposed sanctions in 2013.
Norway, Faroe Islands and EU have now agreed on a mackerel quota down 15% for 2016.
There is an agreed record of Fisheries consultations between the Faroe Islands and The European Union for 2016, meeting held in Copenhagen, 8 December 2015.
Russian trawlers are seen everywhere in the Faroe waters around Torshavn. They sell fish to the Faroese.
A woman we spoke to at the Whale Bay in Torshavn claimed it has created additional robberies and that the population feels unsafe. A fact that is unusual to the Faroese who normally leave their homes unlocked.)
The Faroese mainly eat fish, birds and sheep but whale meat is indeed also a part of their consumption. According to the people we spoke to, the consumption of whale meat varies from once a month to four times a year whereas it’s mentioned in their local paper that only 17% is eating Grind more than once a month.
Supermarkets are full of imported goods especially from Denmark, arriving with a ship approximately once a week.
The supermarkets have everything a Danish supermarket would have including meat, pasta, bread etc. and generally the prices are the same. In bigger towns like Torshavn, Klaksvik and Runavik there are cafes and restaurants serving a broad variety of cuisines. Fast food on the ferry to Suderoy is abundant as well as sweets and soft drinks, which are also plentiful in every petrol station, kiosk and supermarket.
This only confirms TAF’s view that is completely unnecessary to continue the slaughter of whales in order to get enough food.
15 % of the national income comes from economic aid from Denmark.
The fishing industry is the most important source of income and account for over 97% of their export. Tourism is the second largest industry, followed by wool and other manufactured products.
There are good job offers to people from Denmark and abroad in the three hospitals, 54 schools (compulsory schooling), eight upper secondary schools, one university, Fisheries College and music schools.
Bakkefrost, the largest of four salmon farming companies in the Faroe Islands, and the 8th biggest in the world, has headquarters in Glyvrar Hvannasund. Salmon farming is seen everywhere and the Russians sell fish to feed salmons in the farms.
The Faroese’ continuing killing Pilot whales has negatively impacted tourism which could otherwise be blooming.
The Faroese’ culture and traditions are: Grindadrap, Chain Dance, Music Festivals, Flag Day, National Day, Wool spinning, Glass Art Work and Machine Knitting.
Faroese domestic breeds include Faroe pony, Faroe cow, Faroese sheep, Faroese Goose and Faroese duck. The bird fauna of the Faroe Islands is dominated by seabirds and birds attracted to open land like heather, probably because of the lack of woodland and other suitable habitats.
Only a few species of wild land mammals are found in the Faroe Islands today. The three species which are flourishing on the islands are the Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the House Mouse (Mus musculus).
Grey Seals are common around the shorelines. Several species of cetacean, including Dolphins, live in the waters around the Faroe Islands.
Best known are the Long-Finned Pilot Whales, which are still hunted by the islanders in accordance with longstanding local tradition and culture.
Orcas are regular visitors around the islands.
The natural vegetation of the Faroe Islands is dominated by arctic-alpine plants, wildflowers, grasses and moss.
The first thing that strikes you on arrival to the Faroe Islands is the huge amount of sheep everywhere you go – there are approximately 78.000 of them.
The number of seabirds have reduced a great deal as a result of decreased food sources. There are no trees growing naturally on the islands – they are only seen in private and public gardens.
Still, the stunning unspoiled nature is captivating and unique.
Extra research sources: Faroe Islands Tourist Guide 2016 and Wikipedia