WWF says driftnet poaching may take place in the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
These suggestions were included in the final proceedings of the public hearings on the total allowable catch (TAC) data of marine resources for next year’s fishing season. All the materials from the public hearings which took place in Kamchatka will be sent to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The Ministry will conduct a State Environmental Audit the results of which will become public in six months.
Until one year ago, Japanese and Russian companies had been conducting driftnet fishing in the region. After the driftnet fishing ban went into effect, it appears that some Russian and Japanese companies tried to use new alternate fishing methods; however, those methods proved to be ineffective. At the same time, other Russian fishing operations didn’t even try to play by the new rules: they slightly modified the banned drift nets and called them by a new name (“surface traps”) in official documentation and then continued to fish the same way they used to. Nevertheless, the conspiracy was soon revealed and as a result Russian authorities detained seven vessels and penalized the companies which owned the vessels.
Currently, salmon quota is 22.5 thousand metric tons, a commercial quota volume that has remained untouched for the last 15 years despite any changes to the salmon stocks in Kamchatka. WWF suggests that the current salmon quota be reduced to the total amount needed to cover scientific research on the stocks and on environmentally sound fishing gear as well. All remaining quota above that should be nullified.
Based on the results from the 2016 fishing season, the commercial salmon fisheries showed serious underfishing in the Russian EEZ. If the results are the same during this year’s fishing season (which officially starts offshore Kamchatka on June 1) companies will lose their quota. According to Russian Federal Fishing Law, lost quota volumes will revert back to the government and then be sold by auction.
“If the salmon TAC for the Russian EEZ remains the same, we might face large-scale driftnet poaching there in several years,” fears Sergey Korostelev, the Marine Program Coordinator for WWF-Russia. Sergey Korostelev’s hypothesis is based on the potential for quota prices such to drop to the point where they are undervalued and thus incentives exist for increased poaching.
“We must remember that quota is given to a company and not to a certain vessel. So in theory, it is up to each company that has quota to decide the number of fishing vessels it uses to split its total company quota. Businessmen, who understand that it’s impossible to catch even half of their quota with existing fishing gear, will decided not to participate in the auction. This might cause a reduction in quota prices and as a result, may open the way for nefarious companies to buy the undervalued quotas only to conduct banned driftnet fishing with many vessels at the same time. Thus, Russian authorities won’t be able to detain all of them,” Sergey Korostelev notes.