The Norwegian ambassador on Tuesday welcomed a Russian criminal probe of the captain of a Russian trawler that fled the Norwegian Coast Guard with two Norwegian inspectors trapped on board, and urged stronger joint action to protect Arctic fishing resources. Ambassador Oyvind Nordsletten deplored the incident, adding that Norway and Russia must cooperate in a good-neighborly way to prevent overfishing.
"If we don't react to rude violations, both nations will suffer," he said.
In 1977, Norway unilaterally expanded its fisheries control zone around the Svalbard Islands to 200 nautical miles, but Russia and most other countries have never accepted the claim.
Nordsletten said that the control zone was essential to preserve the fertile fishing grounds.
"If there were no state to oversee fishing in the area so that is conducted in a normal way, fishing resources there would have been under the threat of extinction," he said at a news conference.
The trawler, Elektron, was seized Oct. 15 by a Norwegian Coast Guard vessel for alleged fisheries violations, but it fled the cutter that was escorting it to port and reached Russia's waters with the inspectors still on board. The inspectors were later transferred to a Norwegian vessel, the AP informs.
Russian authorities promised to investigate the trawler's captain, and regional prosecutors in Russia's Arctic port of Murmansk where the vessel was based opened a criminal probe of him last week on charges of illegal fishing and illegal detention of the Norwegian inspectors.
Last month, Norwegian officials also detained two other Russian fishing vessels for fishing violations and imposed fines on their owners.
Nordsletten said that foreign ministers of the Barents Sea nations were set to meet in Norway Wednesday to discuss ways to expand regional cooperation. "A broad array of issues relating to economic cooperation will be discussed," he said.
On photo: Norwegian Ambassador Oyvind Nordsletten.