New tensions between Norway and Russia over fish

Salmon is again in focus in Norwegian-Russian relations.

Russia threatens to destroy Norwegian fish entering the Eurasian Economic Union after the Norwegian Food Safety Authority denied inspectors of the Russian veterinary and biosecurity service from entering salmon and trout farms.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority claims there was never any clear agreement on the inspection.

A group of inspectors was ready to leave Russia on August 24 to start inspection of 14 fish farms in Norway, but only a day before departure, head of the Russian veterinary and biosecurity service Rosselkhoznadzor Sergey Dankvert received a letter from Norway’s chief federal inspector saying that “at the moment there is no understanding on the program of inspection,” RIA Novosti reports.

Rosselkhoznadzor press secretary Yulia Melano told RIA Novosti that The Norwegian Food Safety Authority Mattilsynet, “without giving any reasons”, banned the inspectors’ visit to 14 Norwegian salmon and trout farms, although the checks had been agreed beforehand.

“The way the Norwegian colleagues act is unprecedented over the entire history of Rosselkhoznadzor’s inspections conducted at enterprises located in third countries,” the press secretary stated.

Dankvert said that Rosselkhoznadzor also received a letter from the Embassy of Norway, saying that the Norwegian authorities found that the inspection of the Norwegian companies “would not be appropriate in the current situation.”

Russia has banned import of fish from Norway since August 7th 2014, but fish from Norway has continued to enter the Russian market through Belarus, which is now the largest buyer of Norwegian trout.

“We are going to analyze possible risks and it’s quite possible that we will impose restrictions on those farms where inspections were cancelled. If we discover that deliveries continue, we will destroy it [the fish], since it falls under the regime of counter sanctions,” Dankvert said according to FlashNord.

According to Director of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s Fish and Seafood Department Elisabeth Wilmann, Norway has tried to come to terms with Russian authorities on this inspection for a long time. “The date was set a long time ago, but we have not been able to agree on the list of farms and plants that should be inspected”, she says to BarentsObserver.

Norwegian authorities wanted the Russian inspectors to visit plants for pelagic fish, while the Russians wanted to look at plants for salmon and trout. “We wanted the Russians to revisit plants that were inspected before Christmas, and where the inspectors found nonconformities that the plants now have closed,” Wilmann explains.

Mattilsynet has received an official letter from Russian authorities stating that the 14 plants on the list will be banned from exporting to Russia. Mattilsynet does not yet know whether the other two countries in the custom union will follow Russia’s list over banned plants. “We don’t know how this ban will look in practice,” Wilmann says.

“We can’t see that there should be any reason to ban these 14 Norwegian plants from the market. We’ve never received any signals about poor food safety or quality at these plants,” Wilmann says.