The photo was taken on the quay in Kirkenes on March 24 this year. Box upon box is loaded on board the aging blue liner.
Although the Russian vessel is banned from fishing in Norwegian waters, it constantly visits the harbor in Finnmark. “Kotoyarvi” has been to the harbor in Kirkenes seven times since January 2021.
Their case in Norway this time is loading goods, according to the report to the Norwegian port authorities. It has not been registered that they have delivered fish in Norway in recent years.
Following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Norway has joined a series of sanctions against Russia. The sanctions do not apply to fishing. In 2020, Russian boats delivered fish worth NOK 1.6 billion in Norway.
The reason for the blacklisting is therefore not sanctions.
The shipping company that owns “Kotoyarvi”, Persey, is headquartered in Murmansk. It has not responded to NRK’s inquiries.
Previously, «Kotoyarvi» engaged in illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean. Therefore, the Directorate of Fisheries put the vessel on its blacklist in October 2000. They have been there ever since.
Greenpeace branded “Kotoyarvi” a “pirate ship”, after the South African Coast Guard and Greenpeace revealed that the vessel was fishing without a license.
Pallet on pallet
Kirkenes is just over a mile from the Russian border. The ties the city has to the neighboring country to the east are close, especially in fishing.
In March, “Kotoyarvi” came straight from Murmansk after a long period on a Russian fishing ground. As NRK’s photographer arrived at the quay, a pallet hung in the air from a crane. The logo on the boxes was from the Norwegian seafood company Coast Seafood, which is based in Måløy.
The group had sales of NOK 4.7 billion in 2020. The manager and part owner of Coast Seafood is Sverre Søraa. He first denies that they trade with Russian shipping companies:
– In any case, Coast does not sell to either Russia or Belarus, so the boxes must have ended up there in some other way.
When NRK sends pictures from the quay to the Coast boss, he sends a new e-mail:
– What is most likely in the boxes is small mackerel that is used as bait by line boats, among other things. This was delivered from us to Domstein last autumn, Søraa writes to NRK.
Admits trade with Russians
In fresh seafood, Domstein is one of the largest Norwegian suppliers. In 2020, Domstein Fish and Domstein Sefood had a turnover of NOK 951 million.
– I do not realize until now that the boat is blacklisted, writes Gunnar Domstein, who is chairman of the company, in an e-mail to NRK.
After checking with a Russian shipping agent how it is connected, Domstein confirmed that “Kotoyarvi” had bought bait from them. Domstein informs NRK that the bait is stored at the Church Terminal. And that the terminal assists with the delivery of the goods when they order it.
The church terminal is a cold store for seafood on the quay just outside the city center. It is owned by Norsk Råfisklag and Icelandic Eimskip, two key players in fishing.
– Me I do not disregard the fact that it will have consequences for Domstein’s relationship with this shipping company, Domstein writes that the vessel is blacklisted.
Gunnar Domstein owns a third of the company and has a personal fortune of NOK 10 million.
A few days after NRK got in touch, Coast boss Søraa stops selling bait to blacklisted “Kotoyarvi”. In an email, he writes:
– For us, it is completely unacceptable that our products are resold to vessels that are on the Directorate of Fisheries’ blacklist, even if such sales are not illegal. We will contact all our customers to make sure this does not happen.
Råfisklaget: – Not okay
NRK asks Norges Råfisklag if it is okay for the terminal they are part owners of to assist trade with a blacklisted vessel.
The raw fish layer is the fishermen’s own sales layer. They have several important national tasks within resource control and sales of seafood.
– Instinctively, Råfisklaget does not think it is okay for vessels that are on the Directorate of Fisheries’ list of vessels that operate or have engaged in illegal fishing to be allowed to buy services in Norway. This is what Svein Ove Haugland, general manager of Råfisklaget, writes in an e-mail.
Haugland has contacted Kirkenesterminalen to get information about the assessments that have been made.
– It will be natural for the board of Kirkenesterminalen, where we are represented, to discuss this question, writes Haugland.
The church terminal’s general manager, Øyvind Andersen, confirms to NRK that the matter will be a topic at the next board meeting. Andersen writes that the terminal has not done anything illegal.
Do not want dialogue
The shipping agent Jarus helps Kotoyarvi with practical tasks in Norway. It is owned by two Russians living in Kirkenes.
NRK has tried several times to contact Jarus to ask questions about “Kotoyarvi” and the shipping company Persy. Finally, we get Sergey Ivanovich Shemetev, who is the general manager and owner of Jarus AS. We ask about the e-mail address of the shipping company Persey:
– I will not give it to you.
– Why not?
– They will not talk to you. I have been in contact with them and they do not want any dialogue with you, Shemetev answers.
– Why can we not get the email addresses?
– No, you do not hear what I say. They do not want you to make contact.
Before NRK is asked new questions, Shemetev breaks off the conversation.
Rejection after rejection
By December 2021, the Russian fisheries authorities in Murmansk applied for a license on behalf of “Kotoyarvi”. On the contrary, the shipping company Persy was refused by the Directorate of Fisheries.
The vessel has also been denied a license by the directorate in 2003, 2009, 2014, 2015 and 2020.
The last refusal states:
The vessel «Kotoyarvi» is listed on the «Norwegian blacklist» of vessels that have engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in international waters … (..) … Against this background, the Directorate of Fisheries has decided to refuse «Kotoyarvi» permission to fishing in the Norwegian economic zone. »
All vessels over a certain size must report the purpose by docking in Norwegian ports. The purpose of the trips this year should have been to pick up provisions and load. That is what Kotoyarvi has informed the Norwegian Coastal Administration.
NRK never gets an answer as to what kind of provisions they have collected. There are usually allocation letters issued by the Customs, but not in this case.
Taken on the peach by the Coast Guard
The shipping company Persey also owns “Dolgoshchely”, which has been caught in illegal activities by the Norwegian Coast Guard.
It was in 2015 that the vessel was caught on the peach by the Coast Guard. They engaged in illegal discarding of fish, and were fined NOK 1.2 million.
The facts were never protested. The Coast Guard’s aircraft filmed drafts of fish, and the catch books were used as evidence.
The directorate could deprive them of their license. It is very rare for foreign vessels to lose their license to fish in Norway. The last time this happened was in 2012.
Most recently in June this year, “Dolgoshchely” was in the Norwegian zone and fished.
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