The Norwegian Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Svalbard Treaty does not grant the right to catch snow crab on the continental shelf off the coast of Svalbard.
The hearings began on January 15th of 2019, after 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, appealed a ruling to the Supreme Court, seeking to assert a right to fish for snow crab off Svalbard.
The Latvian side argued that it had that right to fish under the 1920 Svalbard Treaty, which grants Norway sovereignty over the Arctic islands in exchange for other signatories having access to their territorial waters. Aside from carb fishing, the case is important for determining who will control resources beneath the continental shelf, such as oil and gas or minerals.
The Supreme Court’s 15 judges unanimously rejected the lawsuit filed by the Latvian fishing company SIA North STAR. Therefore, snow crab fishing off the coast of Svalbard was deemed illegal for EU ships.
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