Norway seizes Latvian fishing boat in crab dispute

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Norway has impounded a Latvian fishing vessel over a dispute about alleged illegal crab fishing, Didzis Smits of the European Union Crab fishing association told Latvian Radio January 24.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Raimonds Jansons told Latvian Radio a response was being awaited from the Norwegian side on the exact reasons for the extraordinary action and what is happening with regards to the 'Senator', which was seized in waters near the Arctic island of Spitsbergen.

According to the Independent Barents Observer newspaper, the action took place January 16 with the Senator suspected of illegal fishing of snow crabs.

"The Senator was inspected by [coast guard vessel] KV Svalbard and the inspectors then revealed that the ship had started fishing in the area without permission from Norwegian authorities," the paper quoted the Norwegian Coast Guard as saying.

Pictures from the coast guard show the Senator, bearing a Latvian flag, in port, and the formidable naval vessel used to catch it.

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Smits said the action was a "flagrant violation of international law and an unfriendly step by the Norwegian side," insisting the Latvian ship had every right to fish in those waters. 

According to the Independent Barents Observer, this may be only the opening salvo of a crab war that has more to do with the territorial claims of various powers than any desire to catch lots of the invasive crab species.

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