As previously reported by LSM, in January 2017 a Latvian snow-crab ship was arrested in Norwegian waters off the Arctic island of Svalbard. Latvia claimed that Norway illegally restricted fishing opportunities for European Union (EU) member states and violated international treaties, and took the case to EU Court, eventually losing. The Norwegian Supreme Court in 2019 banned the ship from crabbing in Svalbard waters.
The Norwegian Supreme Court has now confirmed that other countries have no right to fish for snow crabs in specific areas of Svalbard.
The case was followed by fishers across Europe, because the conflict is not only between Norway and Latvia, but between Norway and the European Union, who believe that crabs can be fished by all countries of the European Union, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Latvia still has this right to fish crabs in the Svalbard region in line with European legislation, but Norway has another, say, vision and another opinion,” said Normunds Riekstiņš, director of the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Norwegian Embassy in Latvia explained previously that Norway has the possibility to license the fishing of snow crabs on its continental shelf since the EU and Latvia cannot issue such licenses without the knowledge of Norway.
The decision of the Norwegian Supreme Court on fishing rights is not subject to appeal.
However, the decision of the International Court of Arbitration still awaits in connection with the compensation from Norway for the ruined crab fishing business. If the decision is in favor of the Latvian businessman, there would be more hope for fishing businesses that the European Commission would be more active in fighting for their rights.
Coincidentally Didzis Smits, former president of an organization called the European Crabbing Association (or sometimes the European Crab Fishing Association) is now Latvia's Minister for Agriculture.