On January 15, Norway’s Supreme Court began hearings on whether European vessels can fish for snow crab off Arctic islands, north of Norway without getting permission from Oslo. The hearings will result into who has the right for oil explorations in the region, according to Reuters. Into question is whether the snow crab is a sedentary species that is living on the seabed or a fish stock that wanders.
Specifically, snow crab is considered a delicacy in Japan and S. Korea.
If snow crab is to be considered as a sedentary species, then it belongs to the continental shelf of Norway. Yet, if EU manages to owe the snow crab, then it will be challenging for Oslo to secure its dominance on potential oil and gas resources.
Oeystein Jensen, a senior research fellow in law at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo, quoted in Reuters
The question of the snow crab is a proxy for oil. Because what is valid for the snow crab is valid for the oil industry.
The judgement is expected in three to four weeks.
Moreover, Norway, who is not a European member, supported that the European Commission does not have the right to file fishing licenses off Svalbard, over which Norway has sovereignty via a 1920 treaty.
Yet, the issue came up because of a conviction for illegal fishing of an EU fishing vessel, the Senator, in the waters off the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The ship’s owner, Latvian fisherman Peteris Pildegovics, is appealing that ruling to the Supreme Court and seeks to assert a right to fish for snow crab off Svalbard.
Pildegovics noted that the loss of income because of the vessel’s continuous seizure is approximately 20 million euros per year.
On the other hand, Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide highlighted that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is clear that only Norway is responsible on giving permission to fish at the Norwegian continental shelf.
Since the matter is of a great importance, a number of 11 Supreme Court judges will listen to the arguments.