Norway’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a Latvian fishing vessel that was convicted of illegally trapping snow crabs off Svalbard. The high court concluded that Norway, which has control over the Arctic island group through an international treaty, has exclusive rights to harvest the crabs.
The Latvians’ legal complaint has been working its way through Norwegian courts for the past two years. It arose after the EU granted crabbing rights to the vessel and it exercised them, only to meet strong objections from Norwegian officials who claim territorial rights to the seafloor around Svalbard.
The case has caught attention because of reports the Norwegians were asserting their territorial rights to secure them, mostly in the event more lucrative resources, like oil and gas, are ever found in the area.
Norway’s Supreme Court also ruled that the Svalbard Treaty is no hindrance to Norway citing vessels that fish or crab off Svalbard without Norwegian permission. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the owners of the Latvian vessel Senator, which had been arrested by Norwegian authorities on Svalbard, will appeal to a European court.