– incomprehensible, says lawyer Hallvard Østgård to NTB.
On Tuesday, the case against the Latvian boat Senator will be up in the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court, with eleven judges present. But prior to the negotiations, the Supreme Court has announced that the Grand Chamber will not take a position on the question of how the Svalbard Treaty is to be understood.
Østgård believes the decision is politically motivated.
“I see no other reason for returning from this question than that it is politically inflamed,” he says.
The case goes back to January two years ago. The Latvian boat Senator was then arrested for catching a snow crab outside Svalbard without a valid permit.
Senator brought with him a license from the EU, but the shipping company and skipper were nevertheless sentenced to fines and confiscation of a million dollars.
The backdrop is a dispute that has been going on between Norway and the EU since 2015.
Norway then decided to throw out the European crab fishermen who had started to establish themselves in the north. With the new rules, only Norwegian vessels were allowed to catch the lucrative snow crab outside Svalbard and Norway.
Conflict on the rules
The grip has provoked the EU, which believes the principle of equal treatment in the Svalbard Treaty gives fishermen from the EU the same right to catch snow crab outside Svalbard as Norwegian fishermen.
As a countermeasure, the EU has therefore begun to issue its own fishing licenses to European vessels. It was such a license Senator brought with him.
Norway, on the other hand, has insisted that the Svalbard Treaty does not apply to catching snow crab. This is due to the fact that both Norway and the EU regard the snow crab as a sedentary species, that is, a natural resource that belongs to the seabed. Norway therefore believes that the catch should be regulated in accordance with the rules for the continental shelf.
At the same time, Norway believes that the Svalbard Treaty only covers the sea basins 12 nautical miles from land. Snow crab catches take place much further out to sea.
Great values at stake
First-time lawyer Lars Fause, who represents the prosecuting authority, has described the case as “very high-level politics”.
If the EU has the right, it can mean that Norway must ultimately also share the oil and gas resources in the area.
Østgård believes the Supreme Court goes backwards into the case.
– The Supreme Court returns from taking a position on a very important question, says Østgård.
– When I see no other reason than that there are political challenges, the Supreme Court will not take a position on the question, so my assessment is that the Supreme Court takes political considerations. In my opinion, it is not fortunate.
Goes over three days
In the first instance, the Supreme Court’s plan is to decide whether the snow crab is actually a sedentary species or not.
In addition, the Grand Chamber will consider whether the catch that Senator carried out was punishable regardless, regardless of the Svalbard Treaty.
The negotiations go on for three days until Thursday 17 January.