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The President of Russia has signed ban on driftnet fishing

02 july 2015
The bill, supported by WWF, prohibits both domestic and Japanese driftnet fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Russia.

The initiative for amending the law «On Fishing and Preservation of Aquatic Biological Resources» belongs to the deputies of the State Duma and members of the Federation Council, some of whom are representatives of Kamchatka. Consideration of the bill was preceded by much detailed work on assessing the negative ecological impact of driftnet fishing on marine ecosystems and the calculation of economic impacts. As a result, scientists and experts of the Accounting Chamber concluded that this type of fishing causes annual losses for Russia in the amount of more than ten billion rubles.

As it made its way through the State Duma’s scrutiny, the draft of law became tougher. While it originally proposed to ban the use of driftnets by industrial and coastal fisheries, the final version of the document now includes even a ban on driftnet fishing for research and control purposes. Through all versions of the document, the effective date remained unchanged - January 1, 2016.

“The ban on driftnet fishing is a big win for anyone who cares about the conservation of birds, salmon and porpoises in the Russian Far East”, says Sergey Korostelev, the Marine Program Coordinator of the WWF Kamchatka Bering Sea Ecoregional Office. “For many years WWF-Russia has demanded strict limitations on driftnet fishing and even advocated for its complete ban in Russia’s EEZ because of the devastating consequences of this type of fishing. Driftnet fishing entangles and drowns thousands of non-target species, including seabirds and marine mammals. Even worse, the driftnet fishery is almost impossible to regulate.”

According to scientific data, between 1993-1999 more than 1.2 million seabirds and 15,000 marine mammals died in drifting nets that can be as long as 32 kilometers. Little bycatch information is available after that time period because independent scientific observers were not allowed back on-board driftnet fishing vessels since the late 1990’s. What impact assessment estimates do exist between 1999 and 2008 and are not considered to be wholly representative as they were based exclusively on data from driftnet fishing vessel logs.

“The use of large-scale driftnet gear to harvest salmon or any other fish species is banned in the EEZs of all other north Pacific fishing nations. Sockeye salmon, the target of the driftnet fishery, will instead be allowed to spawn in rivers or be harvested by Russian on-shore fisheries in Kamchatka, Chukotka, Sakhalin and Magadan. The adoption of such an important law for the country, within such a short period of time, highlights the merit of the State Duma and the Federation Council,” said Sergey Korostelev.

© WWF-Russia / Sergey Vakhrin
© WWF-Russia / Yury Artyukhin
© Victor Nikulin