Norway halts the negotiations on snow crabs

Snow crabs Norway EU License SvalbardSnow crab.Photo:

Norway halts the negotiations with the EU on snow crabs

The EU has once again decided to give licenses to catch snow crabs to European vessels without Norwegian consent. Norway responds with aborting the talks.


The controversial decision was made at the EU Fisheries Ministers meeting early Wednesday morning.

– I notice that the EU has again opened to award licenses for catching snow crabs in the Barents Sea. We already made it clear a while ago both to the EU Commission and the relevant member states that such a decision would mean that talks about snow crab with Norway cease, says Minister of Fisheries, Per Sandberg (Progress Party).

– As we see it, the EU has chosen to abort the snow crab talks with Norway, he says.

Same Number

The EU Council of Fisheries Ministers has decided to issue licenses to 20 vessels in 2018. This is the same number as in 2017.

The formal decision on how the 20 licenses will be distributed among different member states is expected in January. In 2017, eleven licenses went to Latvia, while the rest are distributed between Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Spain.

The backdrop to the conflict is that Norway refuses vessels from the EU to catch crabs in the no fishing zone near Svalbard.

This has provoked the EU, which believes European fishermen are entitled to catch as much snow crabs near Svalbard as does Norway.


The conflict escalated sharply a year ago when the EU made its decision to award fishing licenses on their own accord.

Norway has stated that neither the EU nor any other state has the right to issue such licenses without Norway’s consent.

The case was launched in January. Then the Latvian boat Senator was arrested for illegal fishing of snow crabs at the so-called Central Bank outside Svalbard. Senator was issued with a license from EU.

According to Sandberg, Norway will consistently prosecute vessels operating in Norwegian jurisdictions without a valid Norwegian permit.


Negotiations on the matter have been deadlocked for months. Norway and the EU have had several meetings during the year, but have not managed to find a solution.

Norway’s offer has been a quota swap agreement where the EU receives a quota of 500 tons of snow crab. But quota change means that Norway does not give up one crab for free. Are the EU to get snow crab from Norway, it must happen in a form of barter trade where Norway gets something else return.

This is rejected by the European Union. The EU’s position is that their vessels should have the same right to catch snow crabs outside Svalbard as Norwegian vessels.

The reason is in the EU’s interpretation of the Svalbard Treaty from 1920. That gives all parties in the Treaty equal rights to fish in the territorial waters surrounding Svalbard.

New resource

Norway’s point of view is that it is only within 12 nautical miles from the shore that is deemed as territorial waters. In the fishing zone outside this, the rule of equal treatment does not apply.

The snow crab is a newcomer in the area. It was first observed in the Barents Sea by Russian researchers in 1996, and since then the population has increased. Experts believe the species can eventually become a one billion industry for Norway.

This led Norway to decide to regulate the catch i 2014. That’s when the EU’s vessels were banned.


NTB Scanpix / Norway Today