By: Tore Henriksen
On 14 February 2019, the Supreme Court of Norway gave judgement in the Senator case, dismissing the appeals of the owner and the master of the Senator, a Latvian flagged fishing vessel. In the Courts of Appeal, the owner and master had been found guilty of violating the 2014 Regulation on prohibition on harvest of snow crabs (Snow crab regulation) through activities on the Norwegian continental shelf within the 200 nautical miles Fisheries Protection Zone (FPZ) off the archipelago of Svalbard. The vessel owner was fined NOK 150.000 and had to bear a confiscation of NOK 1.000.000. The master was fined NOK 40.000.
The Senator case adds to several criminal cases before the Supreme Court since the 1990s – see the Kiel case in a previous blog by Irene Dahl – where the defendants (owners of fishing vessels and masters) have disputed the charges of violating fisheries regulations in the 200 nautical miles Fisheries Protection Zone. They have argued that the regulations were not applicable as they were inconsistent with the non-discrimination obligation of Norway under the 1920 Treaty concerning Spitsbergen (Svalbard Treaty). In its decisions, the Supreme Court has avoided deciding whether this and other obligations are applicable in the maritime zones beyond the 12 nautical miles territorial sea. The Senator case is somewhat different from the previous cases as it concerned violation of a regulation prohibiting the harvest of snow crab, defined by Norway as a sedentary species. Sedentary species and hydrocarbon resources are part of the continental shelf regime of the law of the sea, cf. Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), Article 77. A judgment in the Senator case addressing the relationship between the Snow crab regulation and the Svalbard Treaty could potentially have implications for the management of the hydrocarbon resources of the continental shelf off Svalbard. This relates to both the obligation under the Svalbard Treaty articles 2 and 3 not to discriminate between the subjects of the contracting parties and the restrictions on taxation under article 8. Continue reading