OSLO, January 13, /ITAR-TASS/. The captain of the Novoazovsk trawler which was detained in the Norwegian Sea on charges of violation of fishing rules in the Norwegian economic zone earlier on Monday may face a minimal fine, according to Sergei Golovanov, a representative of the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries (Rosrybolovstvo) in Norway.
The Norwegian side is planning to take the case to court.
“I hope that the penalty is going to be minimal if the captain admits that a fact of violation has taken place. However, it is hard to predict what decision the Norwegian police are going to make. The captain will most likely be charged with dropping out fish unintentionally. However, the accusations can be different if he denies the charge,” Golovanov explained.
The Norwegian side claims that the Novoazovsk intentionally threw dead or dying fish overboard, which is a gross violation of fisheries regulations under Norwegian laws. However, the Novoazovsk’s captain, Vasily Pashchenko, is denying the allegations. He said the ship had been arrested because of a minor incident when some fish was simply washed away after the safety cage of a drain hole used for dumping water from the deck into the sea had broken.
“The ship has small-sized fish onboard. It was frozen during the previous and current voyages but it has never been thrown overboard,” Golovanov went on to say.
A moment when the fish really fell overboard was recorded by Norwegian coast guards on a video tape. Police in the Norwegian town of Troms are going to study the video during an official investigation to be launched on Tuesday.
In the meantime, Alexander Savelyev, the head of the public relations center of the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries, told Itar-Tass earlier on Monday that Russian ship owners would normally win their cases linked to detention of their fishing vessels by Norwegian coast guards for violation of fishing regulations.
The Arkhangelsk Trawler Fleet which owns the ship is studying the situation. “So far we are refraining from any comments because we are analyzing the incoming reports,” the fleet’s general director, Yuri Nikulin, told Itar-Tass.
The Novoazovsk trawler was expected to arrive at the Norwegian port of Troms at 22:00 Moscow time on January 13, 2014. At the moment, the ship is being escorted to the port of destination for further investigation. The vessel is undamaged and the crew feels well, the Federal Agency for Fisheries went on to say.
A mid-sized Novoazovsk trawler freezer belongs to the Arkhangelsk Trawler Fleet joint-stock company and is registered at Murmansk port. The crew has 45 members. The ship has food stocks to last for 30 days.
Russia caught 40,400 tonnes of fish or 35% of the allowed quota in Norway’s exclusive economic zone in 2013.
Norwegian laws ban fishermen from dropping out caught fish and impose huge fines on offenders. Fish discards is an urgent problem both for Norway and Russia. A widespread practice of getting rid of small and cheap fish which is not included in a trawler’s quota makes it difficult to register the fish population and has a bad impact on environment. However, the two countries do not see eye to eye on what “fish discards” mean. This is a source of constant disputes and unpleasant consequences for Russian fishermen. Sometimes, Norwegian inspectors give a very broad interpretation, fining Russian trawler captains for fish that falls out of torn nets.
However, all disputes may be settled already this year. Late in 2013, the co-chairmen of the joint Russian-Norwegian commission for fisheries studied a report of a working group that had worked out the definition of fish discards. A standing committee set up under the commission is supposed to consider the report and outline concrete steps aimed at finding a solution to the problem by the commission’s next session to be held in Norway next October.