Crab! How a dispute over snow crab became a diplomatic headache between Norway and the EU

Marine Policy, Vol 98, 2018, pp. 58-64.

Norway and the European Union (EU) are closely interlinked. However, one issue has arisen where interests have clashed: snow crab. A newcomer to Norwegian Arctic waters, this resource has attracted attention as projections of future profit have soared. Why is the EU pursuing a relatively minor issue over the right to catch snow crab in the Barents Sea? This issue has also brought to the fore the underlying disagreement between Norway and the EU over the status of the maritime zone and related continental shelf around the archipelago of Svalbard, stemming from the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty. Is the EU using the snow-crab issue to challenge Norway’s Svalbard regime? How are EUropean interests in this resource best understood? At stake are also the prospects of oil and gas, as well as Arctic governance and environmental protection. The EU is a multi-faceted creature, where special interests can hijack the machinery and bring issues to the table, depending on the circumstances. This article outlines these circumstances, as well as the process concerning the dispute over snow crab and the background, which relates to economic interests, but also international politics as well as law. Further, it examines the EU’s interests, drawing on scholarly work on the EU’s position on Svalbard and interviews with Brussels-based decision-makers, officials and politicians.