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Norwegian authorities arrest Latvian crab trawler with crew of 30 people

BC, Riga, 24.01.2017.Print version
The Latvian crab trawler Senator has been arrested for fishing snow crab in Norwegian waters off the Svalbard (Spitzbergen) archipelago, Didzis Smits, a representative of the European Crabbing Association, told LETA.

The Independent Barents Observer reported that the Latvian boat was detained last week as its crew was illegally crabbing in the Norwegian shelf in the Svalbard fishery protection zone. The Senator had reportedly put out 2,600 snow crab traps in the area without the Norwegian authorities’ permission. The crabber was subsequently forced to set course to the port of Kirkenes, where it today is awaiting police prosecution.

According to the online publication, however, most countries licensed to fish around Svalbard do not support the Latvian vessel’s arrest and consider it to be politically motivated.

Smits indicated that the Latvian boat was arrested in breach of the 1920 Paris agreement banning discrimination in trade.

“The Senator had started catching crab in the Svalbard fishing area based on the 1920 Paris agreement and the EU regulation adopted on December 14, 2016 entitling 20 EU ships, including 11 ships with Latvian flags, to fish for crab in Svalbard. A crew of 30 people was working on board the ship when it was arrested,” said Smits.

“This is a sheer violation of international law and an unfriendly step on Norway’s part not only towards Latvia but the EU in general. If the Norwegians do not change their position and continue to discriminate Latvia’s legitimate rights, the dispute can be taken to the UN court in The Hague,” the head of the association said.

He also thanked the Latvian Ministries Agriculture and Foreign Affairs whose staff have been busily working to defend Latvia’s interests in EU institutions and in bilateral relations with Norway.

In December 2016, the Latvian Agriculture Ministry’s representatives at a meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council succeeded in securing crabbing licenses for Latvian fishermen in the Svalbard archipelago in 2017.

Eleven Latvian fishing boats have received permission to catch crab in Svalbard this year under the agreement.

Last year, Latvia joined the Svalbard Treaty, giving signatory countries equal rights to engage in economic activity in the waters and on the shelf.

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