Russia sends Coast Guard vessel to Svalbard

Russian trawlers in Kirkenes. Photo: Trude Pettersen

A Russian Coast Guard vessel with fisheries inspectors will be patrolling waters off Svalbard this summer.


The vessel is planned to start patrolling on June 5 and will have inspectors from the Federal Fisheries Agency on board. Russian authorities believe that there will be fewer Norwegian detentions of Russian fishing vessels as long as the Russian vessel is in the area.

“The Svalbard zone is still a sore spot in the relations between Russia and Norway”, Head of the Barents and White Sea branch of the Fisheries Agency Konstantin Drevetnyak said, according to Rossiyskaya Gazeta. “As long as the FSB and the Fisheries Agency are there, Russian vessels will have no big problems. If they don’t break the rules, of course” he said.

According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta Norway is trying to squeeze Russian fishing vessels out of the 200 mile zone around Svalbard. The paper writes that Norway regards this zone as its own and has detained more and more Russian vessels during the last two-three years on the plea of breaking Norwegian rules on fisheries. Norwegian and Russian rules are quite different in this field, the paper explains.

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 recognized 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.

Konstantin Drevetnyak believes that the only solution to the problem is that Russian and Norway can agree on common rules for fisheries. The next meeting in the Norwegian-Russian joint committee on fisheries will be held in September. “What results will come out of this is hard to predict, but the importance of this work is evident”, he said.