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Fishing : Tensions increase over Svalbard as EU threatens action against Norway

Tensions between the EU and Norway are growing over the EU’s quota take in the Svalbard Zone controlled by Norway

It has been reported that Norway is close to open conflict with the EU as their fleet has fished 80 percent of the quota they themselves set, with the EU promising that Norwegian intervention will be met with hostile reactions.
The news comes after Norway received a response to a letter sent to the EU delegation on 04 May this year.
Norway had branded it unacceptable when the EU decided to allocate a quota of its own in the Svalbard Zone, with the Norwegians claiming it was contrary to Norway’s sovereign rights under the law of the sea.
The EU allocated itself a quota of 28,431 tonnes of cod in the zone. Traditionally, Norway claims, they have allocated quotas to third countries based on historic track records and has for 2021 allocated the EU a 17,885 tonne cod quota for the zone.
Norway established the economic zone in 1976, a fisheries protection zone around Svalbard in 1977, and later a fisheries zone around Jan Mayen in 1980.

The remote visa-free island at the top of the world (Credit: hopsalka/Getty Images)

The fisheries protection zone near Svalbard extends 200 nautical miles from the baseline near Svalbard.
It is Norway that establishes fisheries regulations in this area, and the purpose of the establishment of the zone was primarily to achieve control of fishing in the area and prevent overfishing.
Norway has for 2021 awarded the EU a cod quota in the fisheries protection zone of 17,885 tonnes. As a result of the UK’s exit from the EU, Norway believe that the UK’s historic fishing can no longer form the basis for a quota to the EU, and the UK’s historical fishing was therefore deducted when calculating the EU quota.
The EU states in its note that it is fully entitled under the Svalbard Treaty to set quotas for its own vessels in the Svalbard zone. They also point out that Norway allow Russian vessels to fish their quotas set by Russia in the zone, which they believe must also apply to EU vessels’ fishing, as well as to vessels from the UK.

Norway, Fishing Boats Image & Photo (Free Trial) | Bigstock

The Norwegian press noted the ‘sharp note’ that was sent to the EU delegation, and on 15 May, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was taking a hard line against the conflict related to the Svalbard Zone. Norway pointed out that international law gives no right to the EU to set quotas in the zone, as the EU carried out for 2021.
Norway requested the withdrawal of the EU’s request for observer status in the Arctic Council which had not been granted due to Russia’s unwillingness to accept the request.
In the letter, Norway says that they have noted the EU’s interest in the Arctic, as a region exposed to the effects of climate change and environmental threats, as well as interest in the economy and security in the area.
“In connection with this, we note that the criterion for allowing new observers to the Arctic Council is that they recognize the sovereignty of the Arctic states, as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction,” the Foreign Ministry wrote in the letter.
“Furthermore, it includes the recognition that a legal framework applies to Arctic Sea areas, “the Foreign Ministry said, referring to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“The EU’s unilateral determination of fishing quotas in Norwegian Arctic waters is not in line with these basic principles of multinational activity and cooperation in the Arctic,” the letter stated.
Reference was made to the EU letter of 26 June where the EU’s unilateral quota regulation suggests an undermining of legality and predictability and is a danger of effective control of the environment and prudent resource management.
“A logical consequence of this is that it could lead to an implication on foreign and security policy in this area,” stated the Ministry’s letter.
The EU responded to the letter by saying that it will not stop fishing in the Svalbard Zone until the quota they have set themselves has been fished by their own vessels.
“The European Union would like to remind Norway that intervention of discriminatory kind on the Norwegian side that violates the Svalbard Treaty will be considered illegal and be perceived as an internationally wrongful act,” says the EU delegation in the return letter.”

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