'Cod War' in Svalbard Zone Escalates as EU Fishermen Sue Norway

© AFP 2022 / WILLIAM EDWARDSGuls surround a fishing trawler as it works in the North Sea, off the coast of North Shields, in northeast England on January 21, 2020
Guls surround a fishing trawler as it works in the North Sea, off the coast of North Shields, in northeast England on January 21, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.09.2021
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While Brussels has threatened Norway with sanctions over slashed fisheries quotas, Olso has in response threatened to deploy the Coast Guard to drive away EU fishermen. In the words of Norwegian Fisheries Minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, this is a "fundamental question of respect for international and national law".
In a new twist in the so-called Cod War, 14 fishing companies from the EU and the UK have filed a lawsuit against Norway over reduced fishing quotas in the Svalbard zone in the Arctic Sea, the trade newspaper Fiskeribladet has reported.
Earlier, in the aftermath of Brexit, Norway cut the quota for EU vessels to around 19,000 tonnes, while the EU continued to operate under the previous quota of 29,000 tonnes – despite Norway being formally responsible for managing the fishing quotas in the protection zone around Svalbard.
The European North Atlantic Fishery Association (ENAFA) is spearheading the lawsuit.
Torben Foss of the law and consulting firm PwC Bergen, which assists ENAFA, cited the massive job losses due to slashed quotas.

"Taking 10,000 tonnes of cod from someone, it leads to people losing their jobs. There are some Spanish, French, Polish, and German fishermen who no longer get the benefits from the Svalbard zone that they have had for the last 35 years", Foss told national broadcaster NRK.

He cited the "calm and predictable" pattern of quota distribution in the Svalbard zone that has been in use since 1987 and which Norway effectively "ended with a single blow" in December of last year.
Foss argued that it is therefore fully correct to present the case before a Norwegian court.

"This is a conflict with one of our closest trading partners and allies. It is very important that a court has the opportunity to look at it, and comes to a result that is perceived as fair by both the plaintiff and the defendant", he noted.
Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, by contrast, underscored that it is important that the quotas Norway sets in its waters are respected when it allows other countries' vessels to fish there.

"Should there be a disagreement about the size of a quota, it must be resolved between the states and not by one party insisting on being able to fish more in our waters than Norway allows. This is a fundamental question of respect for international and national law", Ingebrigtsen concluded.

When Brexit was finalised, Norway argued that the EU's fishing quota had to be reduced accordingly, to accommodate the loss of a senior member. The UK thus received a quota of 5,500 tonnes, while the EU had its original quota reduced by around 10,000 tonnes. The remainder of the original quota was divided between Norway and Russia.

Since then, the conflict between the EU and Norway has flared up. While the EU has threatened Norway with sanctions, Oslo has threatened to deploy its Coast Guard in retaliation.
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, situated north of mainland Europe, about midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole. While part of the Kingdom of Norway, it is a special jurisdiction subject to the Svalbard Treaty that recognises the sovereignty of Norway over the archipelago, yet gives the signatories equal rights to engage in commercial activities. It has been signed by a total of 46 countries, including Russia.
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