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Fishermen of Kamchatka are against driftnet fishing

24 april 2015
Public hearings related to Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of salmons in 2016 took place in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The members of conservation NGO’s, scientists and public activists were among the hearings’ participants.

This year Salmon TAC was discussed publicly for the third time. The most controversial issue, as expected, was driftnet fishing. The participants of the public hearings represented opposing points of view on the subject. And it looked like all of them have their own arguments to support their point of view. WWF-Russia presented its own opinion at the hearings.

“In my presentation I suggested to postpone the TAC for driftnet fishing until autumn 2015,” says Sergey Korostelev, the Marine Program Coordinator of the Kamchatka Bering Sea Ecoregional Office. “I rest assured that planning to decide the total allowable catch a full year ahead is a rather bold initiative, because only in autumn will scientists have actual data from the current season’s salmon run on hand. Without that data any forecast remains quite inaccurate. However, my suggestion wasn’t supported. The majority of the participants demanded a complete ban on driftnet fishing and didn’t want to negotiate over such ‘trifles’, according to their opinion.”

Coastal fishermen of Kamchatka are well-known vigorous critics of driftnet fishing; data supports their reasons: a year ago the volume of coastal fishing harvests fell soon after the driftnet fishing season had started.

For the last five years, TAC for the driftnet fishing fleet has remained unchanged – 9,800 metric tons of sockeye. Also another feature which differentiates coastal fishing from driftnet fishing, remains: driftnet fishing vessels work at full throttle regardless of what happens at salmon spawning grounds, and at that point their fishing cannot be stopped by any legislative means.

Sergey Korostelev adds, “Also, I must admit, that the problem of birds and marine mammals, thousands of which are killed annually by drifting nets, wasn’t discussed at all.  Estimated value of environmental damage is 300 million rubles. The scientists who generate forecasts on salmon runs from the All-Russia Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) tried to substitute the TAC for an environmental impact assessment (EIA), which in my opinion is completely wrong”.

At the same time, the specialists from VNIRO made an attempt to ease pressures on the East Kamchatka sockeye salmon population by setting the opening date  of the driftnet fishing season to June 10. Also, they also suggested that the TAC for driftnet fishing vessels in the next year will be divided equally between Eastern and Western Kamchatka.

All the material from the public hearings will be sent to the State Environmental Expert Panel, which will make the final decision on the TAC for the next year.

Birds, victims of the drifting nets
© WWF-Russia / Sergey Vakhrin
A dead shark, caught by driftnet fishing vessel
© WWF-Russia / Sergey Vakhrin
Coastal (red) and driftnet fishing in Petropavlovsk-Commander subzone, 2014. Tons of fish caught by driftnet fishing vessels are on the right side of the scheme.
© 96609