“In Fiskebåt’s experience, the extent and intensity of Russian military exercises have increased in recent years,” said Sturla Roald, division head at Fiskebåt, in a press release.
Fiskebåt writes that the organization is informed by Norwegian fishing vessels that they have to interrupt the fishing process due to Russian military exercises in the north more and more often.
The organization emphasizes that danger zones covering large areas are established during exercises, and that exercises are not announced until very shortly before their start.
In a letter to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the organization asks whether the Russian authorities, in accordance with international law, have access to the establishment of such danger zones in areas covered by Norwegian jurisdiction and also whether the requirements potential notification of such exercises are respected. .
The affected areas in question are parts of the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea in which fishing activities take place. The organization points out that the most important areas for the Norwegian fishing fleet are the Norwegian Economic Zone as well as the Fisheries Protection Zone around Svalbard.
“The conduct of military exercises by the Russian defense forces in the areas of the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea where fishing activities take place is a recurring challenge,” says Fiskebåt, the fishing vessel organization offshore. “We are increasingly contacted by Norwegian vessels which have had to stop fishing at short notice and leave areas rich in fish,” Roald adds.
Among other things, Fiskebåt mentions that in August this year, shooting exercises were conducted in the so-called Loophole area, claiming a large area affecting several Norwegian and foreign shrimp trawlers. In September, exercises were carried out with defined danger zones in both the Russian Economic Zone and the Norwegian Economic Zone, as well as in the Fisheries Protection Zone, which affected many vessels.
“The exercises in the Russian economic zone are particularly difficult. When Norwegian vessels have to fish in the Russian Economic Zone, they must travel significant distances and follow detailed procedures to enter and exit the area. Vessels risk losing several days of fishing if the fishing process is interrupted due to military exercises and the resulting additional costs, ”Roald said in the statement.
“In addition, we have received information that the timing of the danger zones in the Russian zone is being changed in the short term and that the ships have been ordered to stay further away from the exercise areas than was announced in the original warning notices. “
The planning and conduct of Russian military exercises is beyond the control of the Norwegian authorities, and of course we understand that the room for maneuver is very limited. At the same time, it is in the interests of both countries to ensure that military exercises in the Arctic take place in the best possible coexistence with commercial interests. Nevertheless, Fiskebåt considers that the praxis which seems to have developed at present is totally unacceptable and detrimental to Norwegian interests, writes the organization.
The letter says Fiskebåt is not sure whether these issues have already been raised with Russian authorities, but still asks the Foreign Ministry to consider doing so. In addition, Fiskebåt presents a series of relevant measures, including:
- When planning exercises, fishing interests in the areas concerned should be taken into account. The aim should be to perform exercises at times and in areas with the least possible fishing activity.
- Danger zones established in many cases cover large ocean areas. Limiting the extent of these areas should be a goal.
- Scheduled exercises should be announced with longer deadlines than is currently being done, so that notifications can be included in the operational planning of vessels. In conclusion, we question whether Russian authorities under public international law have lawful access to establish danger zones in ocean areas under Norwegian jurisdiction, and whether the requirements for notification of such exercises are being met. And following that; how Norwegian fishing vessels should relate to Russian danger zones in the Norwegian economic zone as well as to the fisheries protection zone around Svalbard.