Norway’s decision to detain vessels that have been authorised by the EU to fish for snow crab in the Barents Sea and Svalbard waters has sparked an angry riposte from European fisheries representatives.
The Nordic country has arrested a number of vessels that carry a valid fishing licence and, to date, 19 large boats from several EU countries remain tied up in port out of fear of being arrested – despite a recent Norwegian court ruling which has declared Norwegian restrictions illegitimate.
In view of this, the President of Europêche, Javier Garat issued a statement this week declaring: “The legal fishery conducted by EU fishermen has been harshly interrupted, forcing EU-authorised crabber vessels to remain at ports, while Norwegian vessels continue catching snow crab. We hope that the Norwegian court ruling will act as a wake-up call to the attitude of Norway, which must respect its international obligations. Many EU jobs and families directly depend on this activity and have no other alternative. We urge the European Commission services, together with Member States, to urgently find solutions to allow snow crab fishermen to resume their legal activities, since EU operators are losing an average of €1 million per month each.”
Garat continued: “This situation also calls into question the weight of EU Regulations that do not seem to be able to protect the sector, which obviously has to abide by them. Besides imposing obligations, EU Regulations must provide legal certainty and guarantee the rights granted to EU operators allowing them to exploit snow crab in the Barents Sea and Svalbard waters. The EU assumes a responsibility towards the operator when issuing a fishing license. The European Commission must ensure and enforce the legitimate rights of the Member States, the signatory countries of the Svalbard Treaty and beneficiaries of the Council’s Regulation (EU) 2017/127, for fishing the snow crab, in the Svalbard waters.”
President of EAPO, Pim Visser added: “Norwegian attitude is worrisome and casts shadows towards the future, when the political landscape in Atlantic Fisheries will be fundamentally changed.”
Against this background, the EU fishing industry is also exploring other means of action, such as securing its legitimate rights through the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, in the Hague, and fully utilising the available EU funds for cases of temporary cessation of the fishing activity.
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