Fiskarlaget call for and exemption to ice fishing in Svalbard. Arctic Swan shrimp fishing in icy waters. Photo: Henning Flusund.

Fiskarlaget call for and exemption to ice fishing in Svalbard. Arctic Swan shrimp fishing in icy waters. Photo: Henning Flusund.

The Norwegian Fishermen’s Association in a consultation response, has called on the Norwegian Environment Agency to make an exemption on the ban on fishing when ice settles near Svalbard.

In a consultation, the Norwegian Environment Agency proposes, among other things, for a general ban on mining of real estate and ice that is about to settle near Svalbard. The prohibition shall apply throughout the scope of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act, ie within 12 nautical miles from the baseline around the entire archipelago. Within this area, there are several important shrimp fields, including Isfjorden, Forlandssundet, Kongsfjorden and Hinlopen.

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The Norwegian Environment Agency proposes changes to the environmental regulations on Svalbard to ensure that the vulnerable wilderness nature and cultural monuments on Svalbard are safeguarded in line with the environmental goals for the archipelago, as a result of increased pressure on the environment on Svalbard.

With regard to ice conditions, the amendment is justified by the fact that the fast ice is of great importance for many species, and climate change has resulted in smaller and thinner fast ice, which is in shorter periods than before. In addition, boat traffic has increased. External factors such as icebreaking can be unfortunate and lead to the fast ice breaking up and being transported out of the fjord. A ban on breaking fasting or ice that is about to settle, thus provides increased protection for an important and vulnerable habitat. The consequences of such a ban in relation to fishing have not been assessed.

However, there are exceptions to the ban for some forms of activity, where fishing is not mentioned.

Own meeting

Fiskarlaget and Fiskebåt had a separate meeting with the Norwegian Environment Agency as a result of fisheries not being dealt with in the work with the consultation.

Fiskarlaget (Norwegian Fishermen’s Association) and Fiskebåt participated with both caseworkers and skipper Pål Lillerovde on the shrimp trawler Arctic Swan (pictured).

“In the meeting, we gave an account of the fishing activity in the area around Svalbard, and experienced that the Norwegian Environment Agency found the information useful. We were promised that they would call us in for a chat when they have compiled all the consultation responses, and before they send their recommendation to the Ministry,” says senior adviser and case manager Maria Pettersvik Arvnes.

Fishing is important

The fishing team points out in the consultation response that the consequences of a possible ban on breaking ice that is about to settle have not been assessed with regard to commercial fishing, despite the fact that the consultation note considers it so that all weighty considerations are taken into account. It is pointed out that Norwegian participation in the shrimp fishery around Svalbard is not insignificant, and that the proposed ban must therefore be assessed against this activity specifically.

The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has both tracking information and catch data documenting Norwegian shrimp fishing off Svalbard.

Also, in relation to the Norwegian presence and sovereignty, Fiskarlaget believes that shrimp fishing off Svalbard is an important activity. For large parts of the year, shrimp fishing is the only Norwegian economic activity in the waters around Svalbard.

The consultation has a deadline of 01 May 2022.

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Norwegians call for exemption on ice fishing in Svalbard

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