Norway’s supreme court has upheld a decision that denied a Latvian fishing company the right to fish for snow crab on the Svalbard continental shelf.
Latvian fishing company SIA North Star applied in 2019 for a dispensation from the prohibition of catching snow crab on the Norwegian continental shelf off Svalbard for three vessels.
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries rejected the application, and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries dismissed the subsequent appeal on the basis that only Norwegian nationals and vessels have an entitlement to catch snow crab on the Norwegian continental shelf.
SIA North Star’s contention has been that the decision and the Norwegian regulations applying to snow crab are incompatible with the provisions on equality set out in the Svalbard Treaty. It is contended that these provisions apply on the continental shelf of Svalbard, because the coastal state’s sovereign rights over the shelf under Article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are derived from the coastal state’s sovereignty over the mainland.
Following appeals to the Oslo District Court and the Court of Appeal, SIA North Star took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which has now ruled in favour of the Norwegian state.