Norway offers EU quota swap deal to settle dispute over arrested Latvian crab trawler
Norway has offered the European Union (EU) a quota swap deal in order to enable EU fishermen to obtain the necessary license for catching snow crab in Norway’s Arctic shelf, the Norwegian Embassy in Riga announced.
Norway believes that the problem will be resolved with diplomatic means and that talks between the Norwegian government and the EU are ongoing to settle the dispute, the embassy’s representatives said.
Norway still maintains that the Latvian trawler that was arrested in Norway in January had been catching crab illegally as neither the EU nor Latvia have the authority to issue the necessary crabbing licenses without Norway’s consent, and since the Latvian vessel Senator had not such license its operations around the Svalbard archipelago can be considered illegal.
The embassy’s representatives indicated that before the Latvian trawler’s arrest its owner inquired Norwegian authorities about the legality of such fishing activities and was told that it would not be legal. In spite of this, the Senator started catching crab on Norway’s Arctic shelf until was detained. The vessel was detained for a similar violation already on September 16, 2016.
The Norwegian embassy does not regard the so-called Svalbard treaty relevant in the context of the given dispute as the fishing and hunting rights provided by the agreement only apply to land territories and territorial waters within 12 nautical miles of the Svalbard coast.
As reported, the Latvian crab trawler Senator was arrested on January 16 this year for fishing snow crab in Norwegian waters around the Svalbard (Spitzbergen) archipelago. The Norwegians insist that the Latvian vessel had been fishing there illegally while Latvia maintains the fishermen had been acting in compliance with international agreements.
After the incident, the Latvian Foreign Ministry presented a note to the Norwegian Embassy in Riga, asking to release the Latvian crab trawler with a crew of 30 people held in Norway and not to interfere with crab fishing which has been taking place in accordance with international agreements.
Norwegian Ambassador to Latvia Steinar Egil Hagen earlier insisted that Norway had the authority to issue licenses for crabbing on its continental shelf, and the EU and Latvia could not get such licenses without Norway’s consent.
Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs (Greens/ Farmers) during the meeting with EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella in Brussels called on the EU to address the situation without any delay, the Latvian Agriculture Ministry said.
Taking Norway to court over the vessel’s arrest would be the last resort if all diplomatic efforts failed, Duklavs said.
The Norwegian authorities have imposed a180,000 euros fine on the Latvian owner of the crab trawler, but the vessel’s idling in Norway causes additional 6,800 euros loss each day.