The allocation of the cod quota in the Svalbard Zone not for EU to decide says Norwegian Professor of International Law, Geir Ulfstein

The allocation of the cod quota in the Svalbard Zone not for EU to decide says Norwegian Professor of International Law, Geir Ulfstein

Individual European Union Member States have fishing rights in the Svalbard Protection Zone and not the bloc itself, Norwegian Professor Geir Ulfstein has told The Fishing Daily.

In the ongoing dispute between the EU and Norway over the allocation of fishing zone, the Norwegians have defended the quota allocated to the EU Member States in 2021 and have opposed the EU unilaterally setting its own quota in the Zone.

The EU was expecting Norway to allocate a quota of around 30,000 tonnes of cod for 2021, but instead say their quota slashed to around 17,000 tonnes. Norway said that they had taken the traditional percentage of cod allocated to the UK and deducted it from the annual EU quota allocation. The UK percentage was deducted as it no longer a member state of the EU.

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The EU had unilaterally set a cod quota of 28,431 tonnes claiming it had the right under the Svalbard Treaty, but the Norwegians disputed this and in mid-September told the EU fleet that their allocated quota of 17,000 had been fished. The Norwegians allowed the EU fleet to continue fishing but warned fishing companies that any cod caught will be deducted from the quota set aside in the Norwegian Economic Zone. Last week Norway notified the EU that they will be closing the cod fishery to EU boats as the allocated quota is close to being exhausted.

The decision to cut the cod quota in the Svalbard Zone angered some sections of the EU fishing industry, mainly the European North Atlantic Fisheries Association (ENAFA) who is headed by Dutch industrialist Diek Parlevliet.

The ENAFA claim that the EU is entitled to 2.9% of the total cod quota set in the Barents Sea. For 2021 the EU has awarded Spain 13,085 tonnes, Germany 6,482 tonnes, France 3,060 tonnes, Poland 2,693 tonnes, Portugal 2,627 tonnes and 484 between the other Member States based on their claim.

In an interview with Fiskeribladet, Diek Parlevliet says he feels that “the Norwegian government is now using the British exit from the EU as a pretext to reduce a quota that has been in place for a long time.”

The ENAFA has threatened the Kingdom of Norway with legal proceeding over the issue and hired experienced Norwegian PwC lawyer, Torben Foss to represent them.

The European Association of Fish Producers (EAPO) also claim that the Norwegian action of cutting the cod quota allocated to the EU has “no legal basis under international law and the Svalbard Treaty.

Norway created an economic zone around Svalbard Island in 1976. The following year they established the fisheries protection zone in the area. The Norwegians claim that this was needed to ensure proper management of fisheries resources and stop the emergence of unregulated fishing. 

“The Law of the Sea gives Norway the right to establish a full economic zone around Svalbard. Instead, we chose to create a fisheries protection zone for the time being. There, Norway, without compensation, has assigned a so-called third country quota to states that fished in the area before the zone was established,” says Jens Frølich Holte, State Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway. 

Contrary to this, the EU stated that it is fully entitled under the Svalbard Treaty to set quotas for its own vessels in the Svalbard zone. They also point out that Norway allow Russian vessels to fish their quotas set by Russia itself in the zone, which they believe must also apply to EU vessels’ fishing, as well as to vessels from the UK.

Geir Ulfstein, a Professor of International Law at the University of Oslo told The Fishing Daily over the weekend, “Norway has consistently distributed quotas in the 200-mile fisheries protection zone around Svalbard based on the historical fishing of the state’s parties to the Svalbard Treaty before the zone was established.

“According to the treaty, EU member states have rights, not the EU. How the EU distributes the member states’ rights internally does not concern Norway. When Norway has determined that the UK only receives a quota based on its actual catch in recent years, this means a reduction in their quota.

“It is difficult to see that the EU can invoke this in its favour as long as Norway sets its quota for EU member states in the same way as before. Norway has never given quotas to individual companies or vessels.

“The relevant question under international law is thus whether the treaty parties have been discriminated against, not the allocation by the flag states to companies or vessels. I do not see that the member states of the European Union are discriminated against.”

by Oliver McBride

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Svalbard Zone Cod Quota not for EU to decide, says Norwegian Professor

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