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The Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone

09.02.2011 // Norway has established three zones of 200 nautical miles: an exclusive economic zone around the Norwegian mainland (the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone), a fishery protection zone around Svalbard and a fishery zone around Jan Mayen.

Within the exclusive economic zone, the coastal state does not have sovereignty, but sovereign rights over the natural resources both in and on the seabed and in the ocean areas above. This means that the coastal state has the sovereign right to exploit, preserve and manage resources such as oil, gas and fish.

A coastal state’s exclusive economic zone is a special maritime zone that is outside but contiguous with its territorial sea. The EEZ is not, therefore, part of the state’s territory and subject to its sovereignty, unlike the territorial sea, which is an ocean area contiguous with its land territory and internal waters.

The legal regime for the exclusive economic zone is enshrined in the UN Law of the Sea Convention of 10 December 1982. The zone can extend up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline on which the territorial sea is measured, unless it collides with another state’s jurisdiction. Other states are entitled to use a coastal state’s EEZ inter alia for maritime traffic, overflights and laying and maintaining subsea cables and pipelines. Norway has established three zones of 200 nautical miles: an exclusive economic zone around the Norwegian mainland (the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone, established with effect from 1 January 1977), a fishery protection zone around Svalbard (established with effect from 15 June 1977) and a fishery zone around Jan Mayen (established with effect from 29 May 1980).  All three zones were created pursuant to the Act of 17 December 1976 relating to the economic zone of Norway, also called the Zone Act.

The Zone Act extended the area of general Norwegian fisheries jurisdiction from 12 nautical miles, see Act No. 19 of 17 June 1966 pertaining to the Norwegian fisheries limit, and the prohibition on foreigners fishing etc. within the fisheries limit to 200 nautical miles.

The Zone Act protects the fish stocks

The purpose of the Zone Act was to create the necessary legal authority for establishing the zone and thereby create a basis for an extended Norwegian fishery jurisdiction. The Zone Act was necessitated by the fact that the fish stocks in the waters along the Norwegian coast were under threat from an ever-larger and more efficient foreign fishing fleet. On the basis of the Zone Act, a prohibition on foreign fishing, sealing and whaling in the zone was declared. Exceptions could be made via the regulations promulgated pursuant to the Act.

Supplementary provisions were made, inter alia, in the Regulations on Foreigners’ Fishing, Sealing and Whaling in the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone, promulgated by Royal Decree of 13 May 1977 as subsequently amended. The main rule is that foreigners are barred from fishing, sealing and whaling in the zone, unless access to such fishing is regulated by agreement with other states.

Fishery agreements have been made that govern the access to fisheries and quotas for Russia, the EU, the Faeroes, Greenland and Iceland in the Norwegian exclusive economic zone between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the baselines. A certain number of vessels from these states are issued a so-called licence to fish in the Norwegian EEZ. This licence lapses as soon as the country’s quota has been caught. 

The Zone Act must also be read in conjunction with the Act of June 6th 2008 relating to the management of wild living marine resources (The Marine Resources Act), which more specifically governs the management of the marine living resources.

The demarcation question vis-à-vis Russia

On 15 September 2010, Norway and Russia signed a treaty regarding the bilateral maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. The delimitation treaty will ensure the continuation of the extensive and fruitful Norwegian-Russian fisheries cooperation.

The so-called Grey Zone agreement will expire when the delimitation treaty enters into force. The Grey zone agreement was first signed between Norway and the Soviet Union 11 January 1978 as a temporary arrangement pending agreement on delimitation of the Barents Sea. The agreement is a practical mechanism for enforcement and control in a limited area in the Barents Sea. The Grey Zone agreement has since 1978 been extended for one year periods, last time from 30 June 2010. When the Delimitation Treaty comes into force, there will no longer be a need for Grey Zone agreement. There will still be a transition period of two years for technical rules for the conduct of fishing in this area.

The Delimitation Treaty must be approved by the Norwegian Storting and the Russian Duma before it can enter into force.


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