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By Stephen Treloar (Bloomberg) —
Norway’s supreme court is hearing a case over the country’s refusal to let a Latvian company catch snow crabs off the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, testing the control of resources beyond the island group’s territorial waters.
The case, which started Tuesday in Oslo and runs through Friday, concerns the validity of the Trade and Fisheries Ministry’s rejection of an application by Latvian shipping company SIA North STAR Ltd. to fish for the crustaceans on the continental shelf surrounding Svalbard, a practice which Norway defends as its own, according to a statement from the court.
The court will now consider whether Norway’s decision and its regulations are contrary to the Svalbard Treaty, which was signed in 1920 to recognize Norway’s sovereignty over the islands. The pact also aimed to ensure the signatories would share equal fishing and hunting rights in the territories and in their territorial waters.
Norway has in past scolded the European Union — which Latvia is a member of — for setting a unilateral quota in the fisheries’ protection zone off Svalbard, and threatened to use its coast guard to prevent what the Nordic nation called “illegal fishing.” Norway maintains that it alone can allocate EU fishing quotas in the area, extending 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) off the island far above the Arctic Circle.
In a submission to the supreme court before case started, the Norwegian ministry argued that the country’s sovereign rights in the zone and on the shelf outside the archipelago are in line with the development of modern maritime law. Law office Østgård DA, among the lawyers representing the Latvian company, argued in their submission that the treaty doesn’t stop 12 nautical miles from land.
It could be more than 5 weeks before a judgment is handed down, according to a spokesperson for the court. The case number is 22-134375SIV-HRET.
© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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