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Northern Norwegian islands in moratorium over fishing rights

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Northern Norwegian islands in moratorium over fishing rights
Photo: Ellos Deatnu
13:26 CEST+02:00
Protests over the fishing rights of indigenous Sami people in the Tenojoki or Tana river region straddling the border between Norway and Finland are gaining momentum, with moratoria declared against new regulations.

An awareness concert scheduled for next week is also planned, with a number of big names from Finland’s music scene planning to take part.

Protests were begun earlier this week by an activist group on the Finnish side of the Tenojoki or Tana river as a reaction to an agreement between Norway and Finland on the administration of the region’s salmon.

The protests relate to rules introduced on March 22nd, which restrict the use of traditional Sami fishing techniques involving weir and net devices that direct and trap salmon, reports the Eye on the Arctic media.

The regulations cut back fishing rights in the area, with the traditional Sami fishing technique one of the primary targets. The Sami fishing techniques direct salmon into nets, ensuring a plentiful catch but also - according to Finnish and Norwegian authorities - depleting fish stocks, writes Eye on the Arctic.

“This is a good agreement for Norway and salmon. It is about reducing the pressure on fish in Tana. The river is threatened, so we have to intervene. The majority in parliament saw this as the best way,” Laila Davidsen of the governing Høyre (Conservative) Party told NRK at the time the legislation was passed.

Although Høyre passed the new regulations with support of parliamentary allies the Progress Party, the Liberal (Venstre) Party and the Christian People’s Party, Davidsen was the only Høyre MP from the northern Finnmark county, which is home to a large Sami population, to vote in favour of it.

Activist group Ellos Deatnu (Northern Sami for ‘long live the Tana river’) opposes the new Tana regulations and is calling for Sami self-determination and local governmental autonomy in the Tana river valley, which runs along the border between Finland and Norway.

The group last week declared the agreement invalid on the island of Allasuolu in Finnmark, according to a report by NRK.

Regulations imposed by the government restrict Sami fishing rights and extend privileges to non-residents including tourists, says the group.

“The limitations prevent Sami schools from being able to teach their children traditional fishing. This will also contribute to the disappearance of our Sami-ness, our language and culture,” Annti Kateekeetta, one of the organisers of the movement, told NRK.

A group from the Finnish side of the river has visited the Čearretsuolu island on the Norwegian side, where Sami action group Ellos Deatnu has protested against the agreement since last month, according to the report.

The group last week occupied an island on the Tana river and called a moratorium against the fishing restrictions imposed by the central government.

“We are a number of people from Dálvadas [the Finnish region bordering the river, ed.] who have now established this as an expansion of the Ellos Deatnu movement. We hope that others will also show what they think and establish a moratorium in their own areas. That’s how people in other parts of the world have achieved change,” Outi Pieski told NRK.

The Ellos Deatnu activists have also occupied Tiirasaari, a tiny island in the Utsjoki River, where they have stated their intentions not to follow the fishing law, according to Eye on the Arctic’s report.

A source in the area told The Local on Thursday that further islands are likely to join the moratorium in the near future.

Ellos Deatnu has also received the support of a number of popular Finnish music acts.

The group is organising a protest concert on Tuesday next week in the far north Finnish town of Utsjoki, at which artists Paleface, Wimme and Nico Valkeapää will perform, reports Finnish media Yle Uutiset.

"The main purpose is to get the people of the Tana river basin – and, of course, elsewhere – involved. Ellos Deatnu is just one group. We want to encourage everyone to support the rights of Sami people and the environment. Right now, all help is needed,” Beaska Nillas, a spokesperson with Ellos Deatnu, told Yle Uutiset.

“I want to give my support to Ellos Deatnu and all the Sami people. Their position needs to be strengthened. Sami voices have to be heard in Finnish and Norwegian society, most importantly in relation to decisions affecting their traditional livelihoods,” Finnish hip-hop artist Paleface (Kari Miettinen) told the news programme.

The moratorium will remain in place for the entire fishing season, according to the Finnish report.  

READ ALSO: History of Norway’s indigenous Sami and Kven people to get inquiry

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