Defiant Norwegian fishermen unwilling to leave impact areas for Russian missiles

Russia’s ongoing war games in the Barents Sea anger fishermen currently fishing north and south of Bear Island. A Norwegian Coast Guard vessel is also in the area.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - August 14, 2023
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Norwegian trawler sailing the waters of Svalbard. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

It is for Russia to make sure the military exercises are “carried out in a way that safeguards Norwegian rights under the Law of the Sea and international law in general,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ane Haavardsdatter Lunde told the Barents Observer as the Northern Fleet on Friday kicked off a large exercise, including within Norway’s Exclusive Economic Zone south of Svalbard.

Lunde said that also included the rights of the fishermen in the area.

NRK, Norway’s public broadcaster, can now tell that several of the fishing vessels that are within the warning zones have no plans to leave.

Map: Google Earth / NotamMap / Barents Observer

“For now, we stay where we are,” shipowner Dag Jøsund to NRK. He owns “Nokasa”, a vessel currently fishing some 100 nautical miles south of Bear Island.

Russia’s NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) and Warnings to ship-farers cover two large areas in the important Barents Sea fishing grounds north and south of Bear Island. By Sunday morning there are still many fishing vessels inside the warning zones, according to MarineTraffic.com.

The Norwegian Coast Guard vessel “K/V Bergen” is also in the area.

The Norwegian Coast Guard has one vessel near Bear Island this weekend, conducting fishery inspections. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

NRK has spoken with several of the shipowners that deny leaving.

Kjell-Gunnar Hoddevik is CEO of Atlantic Seafish, a company owning the trawler “Atlantic”, currently fishing some 115 nautical miles north of Bear Island, inside the warning area.

He tells NRK that they are “evaluating the situation continuously together with the crew and captain on the bridge. For now, the vessel will not leave.”

“This goes beyond what is acceptable, it will take a lot for us to leave the areas,” Hoddevik says.

He finds it unacceptable that Russian military authorities believe they can close off fishing grounds for Norwegian fishermen.

Head of the interest organization for Norwegian fishing boat owners, Audun Maråk, says the negative consequences Russian military exercises pose are frequently discussed with authorities in Oslo.

“It is very special that a country, which has attacked its own neighboring country, conducts military exercises in Norwegian waters. They should not have such a possibility,” Maråk says to NRK.

The situation currently unfolding in the Barents Sea could develop similar to what happened in the Irish Sea in 2022, when local fishermen sailed out to an area where Russia said it would conduct naval shootings.

The protests made Moscow change plans and moved to exercise out of Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Russia’s NOTAM warnings in the Barents Sea expire on August 15 in the evening.


Located in Kirkenes, Norway, just a few kilometres from the borders to Russia and Finland, the Barents Observer is dedicated to cross-border journalism in Scandinavia, Russia and the wider Arctic.

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