Links Sapphire II treatment with Elektron

Norwegian coast guard crew member.

Public prosecutor in Tromsø explains why arrested Russian trawlers always are taken to port by the coast guard. Norwegians are afraid they otherwise will escape justice.


Norwegian coast guard crew member.
Norwegian coast guard will continue to bring Russian tralwers violating fishery rules in the waters around Svalbard to port in northern Norway. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Russian trawlers feel discriminated by the Norwegian Coast Guard in northern waters. While Norwegian vessels violating the law can continue fishing after admitting the crime, Russian trawlers are taken to port and can’t sail out again before they have paid the fine or presented a bank-guarantee for the fine. Often, that means a week interruption of fishing and is considered as an extra punishment. Time is money, and a week out of fishing is loss of income for the Russian trawlers.

Russian media reports following the September 28 arrest of the trawler “Sapphire II” claim that Norway is much tougher with their vessels than Norway’s own fishing fleet. “Sapphire II” was towed to Tromsø, hold in port for nearby a week, and given a fine of NOK 450.000 (€57.000).

Interviewed by NRK, Public prosecutor in northern Norway, Lars Fause says the Russian trawlers must be taken to port; otherwise they can cut and run from justice. 

- When it comes to Russian vessels, we have experience from the Elektron-case that once they cut and run, we never get the shipowners and the boat, Lars Fause explains.

In 2005, Norway’s coast guard intercepted the trawler “Elektron” for alleged fisheries violations in the fishery protection zone around Svalbard. The arrested vessel first followed the coast guard vessel in direction towards Tromsø as ordered, but suddenly changed course and headed for Russian waters with two Norwegian coast guard inspectors onboard. Several Norwegian coast guard vessels arrived and a high-seas cat and mouse game was played out. The Norwegian coast guard wanted to put more of their officers aboard “Elektron” from helicopter, but weather conditions with waves eight to ten meters high made such transfer impossible. “Elektron” succeeded the escape into Russian waters and public prosecutor Lars Fause couldn’t carry through the punishment.

Read alsoNorway drops case against Elektron-captain

- After the case with “Elektron,” we have a hefty proof that if the vessel is not taken to port, we will never get it, Lars Fause said to NRK.

 Russian trawler.
Russian trawlers feel discriminated by the Norwegian coast guard. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Last week, Lars Fause was quoted by Nordlys saying: - If the Russians don’t want to be upset, they should follow the laws that are enforced in the protection zone.

The case with “Sapphire-II” has become a hot topic in the generally good Norwegain, Russian relations. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believe Norway was overreacting when arresting the trawlers in the fishery protection zone around Svalbard, a zone Russia never has recognized. Lavrov was quoted by BarentsObserver last week saying the measures taken against violators of the fishing rules should be “adequate and proportion.”

This week, Russia’s Fishery Agency threatened to strike Norwegian fish export as revenge to the Norwegian coast guard’s way of treating Russian trawlers in the waters around Svalbard. The threat was soon followed by the announcement that several Norwegian salmon producers were banned from the Russian market.

On Thursday, Rossiskaya Gazeta reported that a special session of the Russian, Norwegian Commission of Fisheries will meet to discuss the Norwegian coast guard’s methods against Russian trawlers.

Date and agenda for the extraordinary meeting are not yet set and will be announced through diplomatic channels.