The EU Awards New Licenses for Snow Crab Catching – Norway Refuses

When the snow crab was registered north of Norway’s mainland some 20 years ago, it did not raise much attention. Now, however, it may become one of the economically most viable species in Norwegian fisheries, according to scientists. (Photo: Creative Commons)
Legal expert Øystein Jensen at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) agrees with Norway. – Norway is the coastal state in Svalbard too. The law is clear, he says.


Legal expert Øystein Jensen at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) agrees with Norway. – Norway is the coastal state in Svalbard too. The law is clear, he says.

The EU refuses to accept that Norway holds sovereignty over snow crab catching in Svalbard waters, and the EU has recently decided that European vessels will receive permits for catching snow crab in Svalbard waters in 2018 too. Norway refuses to accept the EU licenses.

Jensen points out that according to the Law of the Seas, Norway has the exclusive right to award licenses for catching snow crab in Norwegian waters.

- It is rather surprising that the EU seems to continue to mix up the issues of who is allowed to regulate Norwegian sea areas and who has the right to quotas, says the Law of the Sea expert.

The decision was made at the EU fisheries ministers’ meeting Wednesday morning this week.

Svalbard Treaty at stake

- Will the Svalbard Treaty be relevant this time, and if so; what are the consequences?

- Yes, it may be the case that Norway has a duty, according to the Svalbard Treaty, to treat foreign vessels equal to Norwegian vessels; however, this is a different issue from the one concerning who has the right to manage this area. If the continental shelf is included in the treaty regime, it will still be Norway that has to find out how much one can harvest, set tool standards, assess sustainability, as well as issue potential licenses, says the law expert.

He argues that the Norwegian government must uphold a definite ‘no’ towards the EU.

- Norway must uphold its view that only Norway is to manage snow crab on the continental shelf around Svalbard. The EU’s line infringes on one of the fundamental values of modern international public law; namely the fact that it is one state – the coastal state – that manages the resources in its adjacent maritime zones. The law is quite clear on this, he says.

KV Svalbard last January arrested the Latvian vessel “Senator” for illegally catching snow crab in the protected zone near Svalbard. (Photo: Olav Standal Tangen/Norwegian Armed Forces)
KV Svalbard last January arrested the Latvian vessel “Senator” for illegally catching snow crab in the protected zone near Svalbard. (Photo: Olav Standal Tangen/Norwegian Armed Forces)

Snow crab catching may be punished

The snow crab issue was highlighted when the Latvian vessel Senator was convicted in the Norwegian Supreme Court for illegally catching snow crab outside Svalbard last January. The vessel operated on an EU license.

The supreme court ruled that Norway has not committed to the catching of snow crab based on foreign licenses.

- This verdict was to be expected, Jensen says. He argues that this contributes to souring the foreign policy relationship between Norway and the EU.

- When the EU maintains its view that Norway does not hold the right to exercise its sovereign rights on the shelf, and also prosecutes foreigners who violate these rights.

Also read: Snow crab verdict as expected 

Legal expert on the Law of the Sea, Øystein Jensen, at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute argues that Norway must uphold its ‘no’ to catching snow crabs in the Svalbard zone. (Photo: FNI/Illustration)
Legal expert on the Law of the Sea, Øystein Jensen, at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute argues that Norway must uphold its ‘no’ to catching snow crabs in the Svalbard zone. (Photo: FNI/Illustration)

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