Snow Crab Wars in Svalbard: A Dispute Over the Island’s Natural Resources

In the Barents Sea, the snow crab is a relatively new arrival. First recorded in 1996, the invasive species has since spawned a valuable fishery—one that could soon eclipse Norway’s famous cod fishery.

In the Barents Sea, the snow crab is a relatively new arrival. First recorded in 1996, the invasive species has since spawned a valuable fishery—one that could soon eclipse Norway’s famous cod fishery. The Barents Sea snow crab has also sparked an intense bout of legal bickering, with the European Union and countries from Norway to the United States to Russia fighting over access to the crabs.

But this fight is about much more than the crabs. In fact, the real dispute may be about a different commodity: oil.

The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard—the northernmost permanently populated place on Earth—was discovered by Dutch explorers at the end of the 16th century. Whales and walrus were plentiful, and unrestricted hunting soon began. After the inevitable exhaustion of those stocks, international interest in Svalbard waned until the late 19th century, when the discovery of rich coal seams ignited interest in mining the islands and conflicts over its legal status.

Originally posted to The Daily Catch : www.theterramarproject.org/thedailycatch

Photo: NOAA/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

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