The two ships, a trawler and a transportation vessel, were to be escorted to the main village on Svalbard, Longyearbyen, where the crews would be questioned, coast guard spokesman Dag Rydmark said. The trawler had transferred fish to the larger vessel without reporting it to Norwegian authorities, he said.
The Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that the ships, Kapitan Gorbachev and Dmitry Pokramovich, were in the area of the Medvezhy Island in the Barents Sea when they were arrested.
In 1977, Norway expanded its fisheries management zone around Svalbard, about 300 miles north of the Norwegian mainland, in hopes of preventing overfishing. Russia rejects Norwegian rights to the area.
Last week, two Norwegian coast guard inspectors were trapped aboard a Russian fishing trawler that fled to Russia after its crew was accused of fishing illegally off Norway. The two spent five days aboard the trawler Elektron before being released.
The ship's crew was arrested by Russian authorities and could face charges in both Norway and Russia. A.M.