Illegal salmon pays the bills in Kamchatka



Posted on 29 January 2009  | 
Moscow, Russia - Villagers in the Kamchatka peninsula are reliant on poaching salmon as almost their sole source of income, according to a new report launched today by WWF-Russia and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

The report assesses the level of poaching in Kamchatka (so-called illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) catch) of five species of salmon - pink, chum, sockeye, Coho and Chinook - and analyses the importation of these species by countries in the region.

“Salmon is an integral part of Kamchatka’s economy, but stocks are threatened by unsustainable illegal off-take,” says Natalia Dronova, WWF-TRAFFIC co-ordinator and an author of the report.

She adds: “The future security of this vital economic resource depends on how we treat it today.” Salmon are mainly poached for their roe (eggs), which are sold as a cheaper alternative to caviar.

According to the report, poaching of salmon on the spawning grounds has increased significantly, driven by a combination of factors including easier access because of better roads, Russia’s economic situation, and an easing of the country’s salmon trade regulations. For example, in 2003-2006 the actual catch of chum salmon was an average 1.5 times more than officially reported.

“Combating the poachers is complicated by technical difficulties, corruption, and because the illegal salmon catch is almost the sole source of income for villagers in Kamchatka,” says Dronova.

Currently on rivers where legal fisheries exist, poaching provides income to about 30% of households. However, on rivers not used by legal fishing entities, up to 90% or even 100% of families live through poaching.

The report says that improving the options for legal processing of fish, plus providing other forms of employment, for example through increased tourism to the region, would reduce the levels of illegally fished salmon. Improved local and federal law enforcement would also help in preserving salmon and salmon-based livelihoods for the people of Kamchatka.

The report was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and commissioned as part of the “Conservation of Kamchatka salmon and its habitats” project.
Japan is the world’s largest importer of salmon, and imports around half its frozen sockeye supplies directly from Russia.
© WWF-Canon / Kevin Schafer Enlarge

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