Russia does not acknowledge Norwegian jurisdiction in the waters around the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and believes that Russian vessels are not obliged to follow Norwegian law in the area unless the rules have been approved by the joint commission.
The recent detainment of the Russian trawler “Sapphire II” will have an impact on the next meeting in the commission, which takes place in Kaliningrad October 10-14, the Russian website Fishnews.ru writes. The incident was widely discussed in a preparatory meeting on the Russian side recently.
According to Russian fishermen, the number of Norwegian detentions of Russian vessels around Svalbard has increased after the Agreement on Delimitation of the Barents Sea came into force in July. In course of the last three months four Russian vessels have been arrested allegedly for dumping of fish in the conservation zone.
The Fisheries Protection Zone is a 200 nautical mile zone of fisheries jurisdiction around the Svalbard archipelago. It was established on 3 June 1977.
Norway exercises full and absolute sovereignty over Svalbard, in conformity with the provisions set out in the Treaty concerning Spitsbergen of 9 February 1920. Norway’s sovereignty over Svalbard has moreover been recognised by the whole international community. As a coastal state Norway has the right under the modern law of the sea to establish a 200-mile economic zone around the archipelago and to exercise fisheries jurisdiction in the zone.
There are different views on the geographical scope of the Treaty concerning Spitsbergen. Norway has always based itself on the position that the treaty, in accordance with its wording, only applies to the archipelago and the territorial waters. However, in relation to potential economic interests, other states have claimed that the treaty also applies to maritime areas beyond the territorial waters. It is inter alia against this background that Norway chose in 1977 until further notice to establish a fisheries protection zone rather than a full economic zone. One of the purposes of the zone was to ensure the protection and sound management of the living resources, since this is one of the most important nursery areas for important fish stocks.