In case affecting oil, Norway Supreme Court says EU ships cannot fish Arctic snow crab
Norway's Supreme Court ruled on Monday that EU ships cannot fish for snow crab off the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic, in a case also deciding who has the right to explore for oil and minerals in the region.
Norway's Supreme Court ruled on Monday that EU ships cannot fish for snow crab off the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic, in a case also deciding who has the right to explore for oil and minerals in the region. At stake was whether EU vessels had the right to catch snow crab, whose meat is considered a delicacy by gourmets in Japan and South Korea, in the same way as Norwegian vessels did.
But what is valid for the snow crab, a sedentary species living on the seabed, is also valid for oil, minerals and other resources, the Supreme Court ruled in a 2019 case. A Latvian fisheries company applied to the non-EU country in 2019 for a fishing licence to catch the species, but was turned down on the basis that only Norwegian vessels can.
The Latvian firm argued it had that right under the 1920 Svalbard Treaty, which grants Norway sovereignty over the Arctic islands with the condition that other signatories have access to their territorial waters. "The company does not have the right to catch snow crab on the continental shelf outside Svalbard," the Supreme Court said in its verdict, which was unanimous among the 15 justices who voted.
If the company had won that right, it would have meant other states than Norway would have had the right of access to the natural resources on the continental shelf around Svalbard. In a sign of the importance the case had for Norway, some 16 judges listened to arguments when they were presented in January. Most other cases are decided by a panel of just five.
On Monday only 15 judges decided in the case, to ensure a majority could be reached, with the youngest judge excluded from voting.
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