WWF-Russia and Barents Sea fishermen develop cooperation
Ecologists, scientists, managers of large Russian fishing companies of the Barents Sea, as well as captains and personnel of fishing vessels discussed the course of joint work on the ecologization of the trawl fishery for cod and haddock and reducing the burden on bottom ecosystems.
"This meeting is the next of a series of events, which we call "captains' courses". Our task is to enable fishermen to look at their activities from the point of view of careful attitude to resources, to think about how large-scale fishing affects the ecological situation in the Barents Sea," says Konstantin Zgurovsky, Senior Advisor to the Sustainable Fisheries Program of WWF-Russia. "That's why we are building work in the form of a dialogue with the fishing community. We do not want to teach anyone, but we are trying to find joint solutions to environmental problems."
One of the main problems, over which WWF, fisheries science and large fisheries associations of the Northern Basin have worked together for several years, is the impact of bottom trawls on the so-called sponges and coral forests, which play an important role in the reproduction of fish stocks. As is known, existing models of the bottom trawl have a severe impact on the seabed and its inhabitants.
There can be two solutions. The first, which is actively advocated by some environmental organizations is a complete ban on the use of bottom trawls.
"We understand that the total ban on the use of the bottom trawl is categorically unacceptable for the Barents Sea, because 80 percent of the fish are caught here by this fishing gear. And it is in the national interests of Russian fishermen and fisheries industry in general, to maintain the existing status quo. Therefore, several years ago, WWF-Russia proposed a compromise option that would suit all the stakeholders," says Andrei Vinnikov, Director of the Sustainable Fisheries Program of WWF-Russia.
The compromise solution is to minimize the impact of the trawl on vulnerable marine ecosystems without disrupting fishing operations. To do this, it is necessary to allocate and map areas of particular value from the point of view of conservation of bottom ecosystems. Fishermen can avoid them during fishing. The process of collecting data for mapping, both by scientists and the fishermen themselves is going on now - they record the by-catch of vulnerable species of benthic invertebrates, and transmit these data to PINRO (Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography) specialists for generalization and analysis.
And secondly, there is another joint project that will reduce the burden on the bottom communities - the modernization of the bottom trawl. After several years of theoretical work, modeling and testing, PINRO specialists began creating experimental rigging of the bottom trawl in full size.
"The new rig should minimize the negative impact of the trawl on the seabed, while ensuring good catchability. If successful, this is an interesting and innovative project, we will be able to get a modernized bottom trawl that will have significantly less impact on the bottom communities, and will also save fuel due to lower resistance of fishing gear. The project is very important not only for Russia, but for the world as a whole. And we are talking about the development of completely new technologies," - said Artur Ilyasov, Deputy Director General for Foreign Economic Affairs of the NGO "Union of Fishermen of the North".
The willingness of the fishing industry to cooperate in this direction is also indicated by the fact that for the next two years they plan to allocate another 6 to 10 million rubles.
Since this task is not only for Russian fishermen, scientists and ecologists, but also for their foreign counterparts working in the Arctic, a discussion has been initiated on the need for an international meeting with the participation of all interested parties for the exchange of experience and coordination of efforts.