Fishing management will be improved in Kamchatka
Six salmon fishery management units encompassing harvesting rights by two companies in Western Kamchatka have successfully passed annual audit according to MSC standards. All salmon species, except king salmon, are certified on the Ozernaya, Golygina, Opala, Koshegochek, Vorovskaya and Kol' Rivers. The fishing companies on these rivers are eager to improve the methods of calculating escapement, that is, the number of fish that are not harvested commercially and are allowed to reach their spawning grounds.
A sonar has been used for many years on the bank of Kurilskoye Lake, at the outlet to the Ozernaya River. This equipment helps scientists calculate the number of fish that reach their spawning grounds in the lake. The Ozernaya river is well-known for its sockeye runs - ninety percent of salmon that spawn in the river are sockeye. According to KamchatNIRO, scientists do not need any more data, observations, and calculations except those mentioned above, to assess the condition of spawning grounds. WWF-Russia thinks that methods of assessment without sonar have serious drawbacks for well-timed fishing management.
“It takes fish about four days to cover the distance between the Ozernaya river mouth and Kurilskoye Lake,” says Denis Semenov, Projects Coordinator of WWF-Russia's Kamchatka ecoregional office.
“It is very difficult to make important management decisions in time when the escapement levels exceed the carrying capacity of the spawning grounds, or when escapement levels are not large enough and thus there are too few salmon in the lake. The current management system as it is designed now means that scientists and fishery managers are unable to regulate the commercial fishing industry in real-time based on actual escapement numbers as they are managing the fishery with a several day lag behind commercial harvesting. WWF insists that upon modernizing the fish counting and management system in the main stream of the Ozernaya to allow for managers to suggest in-season day-to-day changes to commercial fishing levels. WWF's suggestions are supported by the auditing company and the fishing companies.”
The Association of the Fisheries of the Ozernaya region unites three companies that have commercial harvesting rights on the river. The Association recently purchased an analogous sonar system and installed it on the bank of the Ozernaya river upstream of the commercial fishing areas. Thus, it is now possible for the Kamchatka Anadromous Fish Commission, which consists of almost 20 representatives of different Federal institutions, including KamchatNIRO, Federal Fishery Agency, the Kamchatka Ministry of Fisheries, to know how many fish there are in the main stream of the river between the river mouth and Kurilskoye Lake throughout the fishing season.
However, these advancements in methods to manage the commercial fishery and escapement levels in-season, have only been instituted on one river of the six main MSC certified rivers in Western Kamchatka. The other five rivers have several salmon species and the only method currently used to count them is via aerial surveys conducted by helicopter above the rivers. One helicopter company which makes regular flights between the west coast fishery districts has agreed to take Federal management scientists on board their helicopters free of charge.