Tensions mount in Russia-Norway salmon spat

The Norway-Russia border

OSLO is still waiting to hear exactly why Russia has suddenly banned shipments of Norwegian salmon and trout through Belarus.

The Russians are claiming that some of the fish contains banned and harmful substances, but have so far failed to provide further details.

Moscow imposed a ban on direct Norwegian fish imports in the summer of 2014 as a tit-for-tat move against Western sanctions following its invasion of Crimea.

But it has been continuing to receive Norwegian salmon and trout processed in the former Soviet satellite state of Belarus which, because it is part of a Euro-Asian trade organisation, allows it to get over the ban.

Once known as Belorussia, the country is landlocked between Poland, Lithuania and Russia but has an active fish processing sector and is an important customer for Norway.

However, while Norwegian and Russian fishery organisations continue close co-operation, relations between the two countries at government level have not always been easy.

Last summer, Russia sent back an air shipment of Norwegian salmon bound for China without much of an explanation.

Norway’s seafood minister, Harald T. Nesvik, told state broadcaster NRK that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority has been in contact with the Belarusian authorities, asking for information on what harmful substances have actually been found.

‘We have simply not received any information from Russia itself,’ he said.

And the Norwegian Food Safety Authority has said that its home based seafood facilities were always open for inspection.

The industry organisation Seafood Norway said the Russian claims were vague and so far undocumented.

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