To ban or to limit: is it necessary to save the Baikal omul?
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June, 30

To ban or to limit: is it necessary to save the Baikal omul?

The struggle for the preservation the population of the Baikal omul continues with varying success and unclear results. “Key to Baikal” found it out whether a fundamental decision has been made on this issue and whether it is really worthwhile to introduce restrictions on catching the most popular Baikal fish.

On June 23 the Head of the Federal Fishery Agency Ilya Shestakov stated that a ban on catching omul in Lake Baikal would really be introduced from the year 2018. But it will affect only commercial fishing; the “primordial right to fish” of amateur fishermen and small indigenous peoples will not be restricted.

The new decision of Federal Fishery Agency continues the policy of half-way decisions: in 2016 it was already announced that a complete ban on catching omul would be introduced for everyone for the following two years, because it was needed for replenishing of the fish population. However, if at the beginning of this year the agency was completely determined to impose a ban from April, then by spring the entry of the ban into force was postponed until early 2018; and already in April the Head of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the RF Sergei Donskoi told that the ban would not affect amateur omul capture. And this decision was confirmed by Ilya Shestakov: “We will introduce a restriction related to the commercial fishing of the Baikal omul, following the results of the fishing season of this year. The restrictions on commercial fishing will be introduced in full beginning from next year”.

Despite the decisive statements of the Head of the Federal Fishery Agency, what we have now is only talks. No documents confirming the decision registered with the Ministry of Justice were received by any agencies. “Key to Baikal” got the confirmation of this fact from the Angara-Baikal Territorial Administration of the Federal Fishery Agency (Ulan-Ude, the Republic of Buryatia).

We cannot confirm that this ban has already entered or will enter into force in the near future

Nikolai Buraev, the Chief State Inspector of the Operational Department of Sarma

“Key to Baikal”: How will the ban on fishing in Baikal be controlled?

Nikolay Buraev: It is understood that we cannot put inspectors on every meter of the Baikal coast! But today Federal Fishery Agency and the Territorial Directorate of the Fish Protection are taking measures to inform the local population, work with the mass media, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other controlling agencies, besides, comprehensive measures are being taken to control illegal fishing. The response team titled “Sarma” has been created: it will directly monitor the water area of the lake. Agreements on cooperation and operational interaction have been concluded with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Buryatia, the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Irkutsk Oblast. In addition, we cooperate with the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, Veterinary Directorate. Everything is being done to ensure control over the capture of biological resources of Lake Baikal.

“Key to Baikal”: Does this operational interaction concern only the interruption of fish capture or does it also involve the issue of selling fish?

NB: This affects the sales of fish, too. But you should understand that both commercial and traditional fishing is carried out on legal grounds today, because the ban has not yet come into legal force. So, the fish is sold in shops without contradicting the law. We have recently received the instructions from the Government of the Russian Federation to develop a set of measures to tighten the rules of trade.

“Key to Baikal”: How do think, to what extent is it rational to ban the commercial fishing of omul, if it is generally recognized that the greatest harm is done by poaching capture?

NB: Poaching capture is already prohibited. But I believe that not only commercial fishing, but also traditional fishing should be banned. The catch of omul can only be left permissible for scientific purposes. Because both commercial and traditional fishing toady leads to illegal sales - both through trade networks and through illegal trade outlets. We need to struggle with the existing market for the sale of these products. Some measures have already been taken; the first restrictions have been introduced. By the order as of May 30 of this year, the capture of omul for amateur fishing must not exceed five kilograms per day.

Andrei Fedotov, the Director of the Irkutsk Limnological Institute of SB RAS, expressed his point of view on the capture of omul in Baikal and on the ban of this kind of activity.

According to our calculations, it is too early to introduce the ban on capture. The population of the fish does really decrease, but our data differ from those provided by the Federal Fishery Agency. We count omul in the entire Baikal, and the Federal Fishery Agency only monitors how many fish go to spawn into the rivers that flow into Baikal. Less than 5% of all fish in Baikal go to spawn in these rivers. And the figures differ “several times” - according to our latest data for 2011, there was 31.6 thousand tons of omul, and according to the data of the Federal Fishery Agency – only 21.4 tons.

“Key to Baikal”: Do you think it makes sense to ban the capture of omul in Lake Baikal?

AF: You can do whatever you want - omul will still be caught in Lake Baikal. The fishing will simply be out of law. The only thing we can do is organize a better protection of the rivers where the fish spawns. Commercial fishers do not catch a lot of this fish. Commercial rivers are protected, but the question is the reliability. According to the observations of our employees, there is an established schedule. As soon as the guards move out, poachers come in. These people are local, everyone knows everything ...

According to the scientist’s opinion, the greatest harm to the omul population is done not by fishermen, but by poachers. However, the last decision of the Federal Fishery Agency said nothing about the problem of poaching...

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To ban or to limit: is it necessary to save the Baikal omul?