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Премия рунета 2017

The record-breaking salmon fishing season has ended in Kamchatka

21 september 2018
Despite the news of record-breaking production, this year’s salmon fishing season leaves many issues unresolved. Environmental impact is one of them.

The main part of the salmon run was delayed by cold weather and high water levels in the rivers of Kamchatka. However, when the fish finally entered the river mouth it became clear that the scientists’ forecast of extremely high catches was true. The total allowable catch grew every day. As the result, the fishermen in Kamchatka caught 496,000 metric tons of salmon, with pink salmon making up 80% of the total catch. 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 2018 salmon fishing season 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 disastrous picture.

“It is clear that such videos can easily impress a person who is not aware of commercial fishing processes. There were so many fish that processing plants could not physically process it all. The fish rotted and sometimes were discarded in 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 Program Coordinator from WWF-Russia’s Kamchatka Office.

In 1983, the same high runs of pink salmon led to the change of the 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 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 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, low processing capacity of 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 plan to follow the same pattern.

The high catches of this year will most likely lead to another drop of catches of pink salmon in the next few seasons. 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)