A Review of IUU Salmon Fishing and Potential Conservation Strategies in the Russian Far East

Across the Russian Far East, illegal and unreported catch of Pacific salmon is estimated to be at least 1.4 times and possibly as great as 1.8 times the legally reported catch. There are a number of different types of illegal, unreported and unregulated salmon fisheries in the Russian Far East. It is important to understand their differences when developing an effective anti-poaching strategy. Variations include:

  • Subsistence poaching for cash.
  • Subsistence poaching for household use.
  • Commercial overharvest and misreporting in shore-based pound net and seine fisheries.
  • High-grading and misreporting in the research driftnet fishery.
  • High-grading and misreporting in the Japanese Bilateral Agreement driftnet fishery.
  • Multi-million dollar criminalized, highly-equipped roe fishery on spawning grounds.

The illegal market is extremely lucrative for those involved- illegal salmon is just one component of an overall illegal seafood trade estimated at $3.0 billion for Kamchatka alone (Trush 2009). Root causes of IUU salmon fisheries include the collapse of subsidized rural economies and lack of economic alternatives, ineffective laws and institutions, and rampant corruption.

Salmon populations of most species cannot sustain extreme catch rates for many years running, without suffering declines. Estimates suggest that some regions may be experiencing catch rates (including IUU fisheries) upwards of 90% of the total run.

NGO efforts to date have been implemented in a somewhat piecemeal and reactive fashion with a primary focus on providing resources for anti-poaching brigades. A comprehensive, multi-organizational strategy has yet to be developed. The Wild Salmon Center and partners have an opportunity to provide leadership on this issue, but it must also understand the limitations to NGO powers in dealing with this epidemic in Russia. We cannot expect to stop poaching in Russia, but rather to mitigate and perhaps isolate the problem.

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