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Премия рунета 2017

The record-breaking salmon fishing season has ended in Kamchatka

21 september 2018
Besides of all the talks about record-breaking results, the salmon fishing season of this year leaves a bunch of issues unsolved. Environmental impact is one of the.

The main part of the salmon run was delayed by cold weather and high level of water in the rivers of Kamchatka. However, when the fish finally entered the river mouths it became clear that the scientists’ forecast of extremely high catches was true. The total allowable catch was growing bigger with every day. As the result, the fishermen in Kamchatka caught 496,000 metric tons of salmon, pink salmon made 80% of it. Pink salmon runs were high not only on the western coast (as it is usual for even years) but on the eastern coast as well.

But the people in Kamchatka and the rest of the country (thanks to the Internet) will remember the salmon fishing season-2018 as the time when tons of fish were discarded on the banks of the rivers, on the sides of the roads, and in the nearby forests. A picture which reminds of a disaster.

“It is clear that such videos can easily impress a person who is not aware of the commercial fishing process. There were so many fish that processing plants could not physically process it all. The fish got rotten and sometimes were discarded with violation of environmental requirements. In such cases, those responsible should be held to account. However, this still will not become a catastrophe for salmon. Pink salmon populations can fluctuate, and spontaneous high runs are normal for them. It is just a way of self-regulation of these species,” says Sergey Korostelev, the Marine Programm Coordinator from WWF-Russia’s Kamchatka Office.

In 1983, the same high runs of pink salmon led to the change of dominant breed due to mass dying at spawning grounds.

“This phenomenon happens when there are too many spawners at a spawning ground. Those who come later destroy the nests of those who came earlier. Thus, roe is dying outside the nests and starts to decay. The bacterial activity spreads to the living roe inside the nests, killing all of it. Pacific salmon species die after spawning and mass of decaying fish on the banks and bottoms of lakes and rivers reduce the oxygen concentration in water which leads to roe suffocation. This all leads to a serious drop in pink salmon runs in the next years. It takes time for the population to rebuild itself,” says Sergey Korostelev.

There is no human fault in the events like that one in 1983. These events do not lead to a catastrophe for fish, however, they can have serious economic consequences. In 1998, the low processing capacity of processing plants could have led to the same results as in 1983. Knowing that, the local administration allowed every person and company in Kamchatka to fish freely which turned out to be an effective and smart measure. In 2018, the local administration had either no will or no possibility to follow the same pattern.

Anyway, high catches of this year will most likely lead to another drop in catches of pink salmon in the next few years. There may also be consequences for chum salmon as well because these species usually share spawning grounds with pink salmon.


Photo in the head: ©Dmitriy Shpilenok

For additional information please contact
Project coordinator (Sustainable fishery project coordinator)