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Премия рунета 2017

On Fisherman’s Day WWF-Russia tells why a million tons of fish goes overboard and how to prevent it

14 july 2019
Fisherman's Day is a holiday uniting both amateurs and professionals; those who bring home several fish, and those who unload multiton catches at dockside. Last year in Russia more than five million tons of marine resources were extracted. Slightly less than half of these volumes were exported. And a million tons more were simply thrown overboard. And this is by the most conservative estimate.

The fishing industry, like any other, is interested in maximizing profits, which requires the production of goods with high added value. At the same time, the output of fishing enterprises is limited by their fishing quotas. For this reason, captains of fishing vessels will prefer to get rid of fish with a potentially low market value in favor of a more expensive one. First of all, juveniles will be sent overboard, followed by injured fish and low-value, unquoted species.

“Often not only waste, but also valuable fishes go overboard simply because the enterprise does not have quotas for it,” explains Alexey Golenkevich, the Sustainable Marine Fisheries Program Coordinator with the Barents Sea Ecoregional Office of WWF-Russia. “Only large fishing companies have a quota for catching several species at once. They can legally allow themselves to write off captured species within the existing limit. Small enterprises are deprived of such an opportunity and their vessels often throw part of the catch in open waters, where it is difficult to track emissions and hold the company accountable. ”

Often they do the same with recycled waste. In the production of frozen fish products, one third of raw fish goes overboard. In the production of fillets, up to 60% of the catch volume is recorded as waste, and in some industries, according to expert data, up to 90%. Such emissions are considered legal because, subject to certain requirements, they are part of the selected quota. And although there is nothing to complain about from a legal point of view, these emissions are identical to the others in terms of their impact on ecosystems.

WWF-Russia experts are sure: it is necessary and quite realistic to achieve 100% processing of the catch. It can occur both on board the vessel, and at the coastal enterprise. There are several ways to solve the emission problem.

For vessels engaged in trawling, it is necessary to establish a rule for weighing the total catch without prior sorting. Weighing and registration of catches should be carried out by technical means of control, ensuring the reliability of the results. Such control will prevent fishermen from throw out juvenile fish, which, as a rule, is the first to go overboard, due to its small size and low cost.

The easiest way seems to be a legislative ban on any emissions of fish waste for fishing vessels. Russia’s close neighbor in the Barents Sea region, Norway can boast about the successful implementation of such legislative initiatives.

“At present day, even the by-catch percentage of non-target species established by the Fishing Rules is poorly controlled, not to mention juveniles. In anticipation of the time when technical innovations will allow such control in real time, make it objective and inexpensive, fishermen can already think about the future by investing in improving the selectivity of fishing gear, in improving technical means for searching and identifying fish clusters. A separate issue is the non-use of hundreds of thousands of tons of fish processing waste. A possible solution would be to equip ships with facilities for the production of fishmeal, which is in demand for aquaculture. In most cases, feed for salmon and sturgeon is imported, last year in Russia they produced only 10 thousand tons. Particular attention in this context should be given to those vessels that have not yet left the berths and are being built as part of investment quotas,” said Alexander Moiseev, the WWF-Russia’s Sustainable Marine Fisheries Program coordinator.

The draft strategy for the development of the domestic fisheries complex by 2030 involves an almost threefold increase in the production of commercial aquaculture comparing to last year. The demand of this growing industry for high-quality domestic feed could be an excellent driver for reducing emissions, because what is now going overboard could be sold profitably. And as practice shows, the interest of a business in making a profit works better than any prohibitive measures.

For additional information please contact
Coordinator of Projects of Marine Programme WWF