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Norway’s Exclusive Claim Over Arctic Oil Exploration At Stake In Crab Case

Norway’s exclusive right to explore for oil and gas in parts of its continental shelf are at stake in a fascinating Supreme Court case focused on a marine species: the snow crab, Reuters reports.

The Supreme Court of Norway today began hearing arguments for and against the right of European fishing vessels to enter the waters around several Norwegian Arctic islands to fish for snow crab, which is considered a delicacy in Japan and South Korea.

However, the decision of the court would have direct implications for Norwegian and European oil and gas exploration in the area.

“The question of the snow crab is a proxy for oil. Because what is valid for the snow crab is valid for the oil industry,” a legal expert, Oeystein Jensen, told Reuters.

The argument comes down to whether the snow crab is a sedentary species, which would mean it lives exclusively in Norwegian waters, securing an equally excusive right to only local fishermen to fish it, or a species that moves around, which would justify granting the same fishing right to fishermen from other European countries.

The same, apparently, applies for oil and gas exploration as well, not because oil and gas are a moving marine species but probably because, like the snow crab, they are natural resources.

The Supreme Court case is related to a lower court ruling that Norway was right in convicting a boat owner of illegal fishing of the coast of the Svalbard archipelago, Reuters recalls. The owner, Latvian Peteris Pildegovics appealed that ruling, arguing that he didn’t need a Norwegian fishing license for the area, which Norway has controlled since 1920. Norway, for its part, has argued it has the sole power to issue fishing licenses for Svalbard.

The court will hear arguments for three days before it renders a decision on who is right and who is wrong. Norway is not a member of the European Union, hence its argument that fishing licenses issued by the EU are invalid in Norwegian waters.

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By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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