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OSLO, August 18. /TASS/. The Russian trawler M-0239 Melkart detained on Wednesday by the Norwegian coast guard near the Spitsbergen archipelago was released on the same day and continues fishing, Deputy CEO of the Murman Seafood ship-owning company Alexander Borisov told TASS on Thursday.
"The vessel has restarted fishing. The standard check held by the Norwegian side is over. The fact of a breach has not been ultimately established. They had questions to us and we had questions to them. However, at present, there are no claims to the vessel," he said.
The Russian trawler was detained on suspicion of throwing out fish overboard, which is prohibited by the Norwegian legislation. The police of the Norwegian town of Tromso, which is investigating this case, and the Russian embassy have not yet given any comments.
The Melkart was detained inside the so-called fish protected area around Spitsbergen. Russian sailors have the right to fish there but from Oslo’s viewpoint the Norwegian fishing rules, including the provisions on fish discards, apply to them.
The Russian diplomacy does not share this view, noting that the legal regime of these waters is regulated by international law on the open sea. Moscow has numerously stated it is inadmissible to detain Russian fishing vessels inside the fish protected area around Spitsbergen and insisted that measures to offenders should be taken by the Russian authorities on representation by the Norwegian side.
The Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen called by the Norwegians as Svalbard is located between the 76th and the 80th parallels. The archipelago was placed under Norway’s sovereignty after World War One on condition that it kept a special international status.
The Spitsbergen Treaty signed in 1920 sealed Norway’s sovereignty over the archipelago. At the same time, the Treaty’s signatory states comprising over 40 countries have equal rights to the development of the archipelago’s natural resources.
Despite this, only Norway and Russia maintain their economic presence on the archipelago. However, Russia and Norway interpret differently the treaty’s provisions on the status of waters and the shelf around the archipelago.
Despite the archipelago’s special international status, Norway unilaterally extended the status of the so-called fish protected zone to the 200-mile water area around Spitsbergen in 1977, which, as Russia believes, contradicts the provisions of the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty.
Russian sailors have the right to fish inside this zone and fishing rules common for both countries have been agreed. However, Russia does not recognize the Norwegian inspectors’ right to exercise control inside this zone and arrest Russian vessels in case of the breach of the Norwegian fishing legislation and oblige their captains to submit documentation on entry into and exit from the zone, fishing volumes, etc.