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Norway follows "ostrich policy" in dispute over Latvian crab boat's arrest

BC, Riga, 26.01.2017.Print version
Norway has apparently decided to follow "ostrich policy" in the dispute over the Latvian trawler that has been arrested for crabbing on the Norwegian continental shelf and therefore risks losing its full sovereignty over the disputed territory in the process, like it has already happened in a similar dispute with Lithuania, Didzis Smits, a representative of the European Crabbing Association, told LETA.

Commenting on Norwegian Ambassador to Latvia Steinar Egil Hagen's remarks that the Latvian trawler Senator has been arrested on suspicions of illegal crab fishing on the Norwegian continental shelf, Smits pointed out that a court of first instance has just ruled in favor of Lithuania in a similar dispute with Norway, which radically improves Latvia's chances of winning the crab trawler case.

"We just received the news that Lithuania has won a similar dispute in Norway's court of first instance. The Norwegians detained a Lithuanian vessel on the shelf last year. The Lithuanians took the case to court and won it yesterday. The Norwegian ambassador will probably read this verdict, which suggests that a similar outcome can be expected also in Latvia's case," said Smits.

Asked about the current development of the situation, Smits said that the Latvians have been told to pay EUR 180,000 total in two fines - one for fishing in Norwegian waters and one penalizing the skipper for taking the decision.

"The fine is neither big nor small, it is typical of such cases where a breech has occurred in a fishing region. But we are not going to pay it anyway, because we are not guilty of any violations, let alone illegal fishing," the association's representative said.

As reported, Norwegian Ambassador to Latvia Steinar Egil Hagen told today that the Latvian trawler Senator has been arrested on suspicions of illegal crab fishing on the Norwegian continental shelf. The ambassador explained that Norway has the authority to issue licenses for crabbing on its continental shelf, but that the European Union (EU) cannot issue such licenses without Norway's consent. Latvia and the EU have been informed about it.

The ambassador also said that the Svalbard Treaty does not apply to crabbing on Norway's continental shelf and that areas for such fishing operations are strictly regulated. The Svalbard Treaty gives Norway regulatory power over the continental shelf around the Svalbard archipelago. Consequently, Norway expects everyone to respect the agreement. Those vessels that are caught illegally fishing in this territory will be arrested and penalized, the ambassador warned.

As reported, the Latvian crab trawler Senator has been arrested on January 16 for fishing snow crab in Norwegian waters off the Svalbard (Spitzbergen) archipelago.

The Latvian Foreign Ministry yesterday presented the Norwegian Embassy in Riga a note asking to release the crab trawler with a crew of 30.

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.

The Latvian Foreign Ministry has presented the Norwegian Embassy in Riga a note asking to release a Latvian crab trawler with a crew of 30 people detained in Norway for catching snow crab in Svalbard.

The ministry’s spokesman Raimonds Jansons told that the Latvian side had also asked the Norwegian authorities to not interfere with crab fishing which has been taking place in accordance with international agreements.

Jansons cited the legal framework allowing Latvians to fish in this territory, including the 1980 bilateral fisheries agreement between the European Union and Norway, providing for annual talks on fishing rights in particular territories outside the EU, including Svalbard fishing grounds.

The Foreign Ministry official also mentioned the 1920 Paris agreement ensuring non-discriminatory access to fish stocks. “To us, it is important that the talks are led by the European Commission. Taking this case into consideration, we will work in Brussels with the European Commission to resolve this issue. Bilaterally, we have presented the embassy a note, citing the above agreements, the non-discrimination principle, access to fish stocks, and asking to release the ship and not to interfere with fishing that takes place in accordance with international agreements,” Jansons said.

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.

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