🇳🇴 In case affecting oil, Norway supreme court says EU ships cannot fish Arctic snow crab

By Gwladys Fouche, Reuters - March 20, 2023
A crab fisherman prepares to off-load equipment from a vessel at the Kimek shipyard in Kirkenes, Norway, on 24 October 2019 (📸: Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

By Gwladys Fouche, Reuters

OSLO — NORWAY’S SUPREME Court ruled on Monday that EU ships cannot fish for snow crab off the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic in a case also deciding who has the right to explore for oil and minerals in the region.

At stake was whether EU vessels had the right to catch snow crab, whose meat is considered a delicacy by gourmets in Japan and South Korea, in the same way as Norwegian vessels did.

But what is valid for the snow crab, a sedentary species living on the seabed, is also valid for oil, minerals and other resources, the Supreme Court ruled in a 2019 case.

A Latvian fisheries company, SIA North Star, applied to Norway, a non-EU country, in 2019 for a fishing licence to catch the species, but was turned down on the basis that only Norwegian vessels can.

SIA North Star argued it had that right under the 1920 Svalbard Treaty, which grants Norway sovereignty over the archipelago — on the condition that other signatories have access to its territorial waters.

“The company does not have the right to catch snow crab on the continental shelf outside Svalbard,” the Supreme Court said in its verdict, which was unanimous.

If SIA North Star had won that right, it would have meant other states than Norway would have had the right of access to the natural resources on the continental shelf around Svalbard.

While the legal recourse for the fisheries company are now over, a state may bring a case against Norway, said Øystein Jensen, a professor of international law at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo.

“It will continue as an international legal dispute in the sense that other states may not necessarily accept this as the final solution of this issue,” Mr Jensen told Reuters. “It is a domestic court decision, (so) an international court can also hear this question at a later stage.”

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Terje Solsvik, Louise Heavens and Angus MacSwan)

• 🇺🇸 Blame ‘borealisation’ for the disaster befalling the snow crab
🇳🇴 Norway’s Supreme Court hears Arctic snow crab case affecting oil, minerals
🇳🇴 How a standoff over cod could test the boundaries of the Svalbard Treaty
🇳🇴 Svalbard Treaty doesn’t apply beyond coastal waters, signals Norwegian high-court ruling in snow crab case
• 🇪🇺 🇳🇴 EU grants more licenses in contested snow crab fisheries near Svalbard

This article has been fact-checked by Arctic Business Journal and Polar Research and Policy Initiative, with the support of the EMIF managed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Disclaimer: The sole responsibility for any content supported by the European Media and Information Fund lies with the author(s) and it may not necessarily reflect the positions of the EMIF and the Fund Partners, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the European University Institute.