Right in the midst of arguably their most serious conflict ever, Norway and Russia have managed to agree on new fishing quotas for next year. Newspaper Aftenposten editorialized this week how the new pact provides “some light in the darkness” that descended after Russia invaded Ukraine last winter.
Norway and Russia have cooperated on fishing quotas since the 1970s, and thus been able to preserve the rich stocks of cod, haddock, halibut and other seafood in Arctic waters. The Barents Sea is home to the best cod stocks in the world, and both Norway and Russia have long realized that they must be managed well.
Negotiations between the two countries thus began as expected this month, and were carried out digitally over a week and a half. The government described the agreement struck on Tuesday as “the biggest and most important bilateral fishing agreement” Norway has.
“It’s good that we have a new fishing pact with Russia even though we are in an extraordinary situation,” stated Fisheries Minister Bjørnar Skjæran when the deal was done. The quota for northeast Arctic cod was set at 566,784 tons for 2023, 20 percent less than this year’s quota.
“In more normal years this would have just been routine news,” wrote newspaper Aftenposten shortly after negotiations concluded successfully this week, but now Norway has a neighbour that has been attacking another neighour for the past eight months.
“In a shocking manner, Russia has set aside both common sense and international rules,” editorialized the paper, adding that the fishing agreement thus comes as “light in the darkness.” It also indicates that “there are still some pockets of sensibility and normalcy in the Russian state apparatus,” wrote Aftenposten, Norway’s largest paper.
The agreement hammered out once again is viewed as sensible and concrete, setting the quotas for fish in the cold Arctic waters based on the recommendations of experts. Russia and Norway also agreed on how the quotas will be monitored and how research can be carried out.
The pact comes even as tensions rose again this week following the arrest and detainment of a suspected Russian spy and several other Russians accused of illegally operating drones in Norway. Russia has also warned it will dump the entire fishing agreement if Norway closes its harbours to Russian fishing vessels.
Most have already been closed, though, with the exception of Kirkenes, Tromsø and Båtsfjord. Norway has also confirmed its ongoing support for Ukraine, in the form of weapons, defense equipment and humanitarian aid.
Cooperation in seas important to both Norway and Russia, however, is in both countries’ interests. “Norway knows, and Russia knows, that it’s neither economically, ecologically nor politically smart to cut off that cooperation,” Aftenposten wrote.