Amended Law on Fishery implements mandatory clearance of high-seas catch and long-term salmon concessions

November 30, 2007 15:51

Russia's Federation Council (Upper House) has endorsed epoch-making amendments to the Federal Law on Fishery and Conservation of Aquatic Biological Resources as well as a number of legislative acts aimed at improving the management of aquatic biological stocks.

The document defines legislative norms in the sphere of commercial fishery, inshore inclusive, state management of fisheries and conservation of aquatic biological resources as well as incentives for development of Russian fish processors. Besides, a number of regulations of the amended law are aimed at fighting poaching by means of economic methods. The law also stipulated for creation of a mechanism of improved monitoring of fishing vessels.

Foreign fishery

The amended law specifies that only the vessels sailing under the Russian flag and equipped with position tracking devices are allowed to conduct commercial fisheries.

According to the document, commercial fishery operations are allowed for residents of the Russian Federation with foreign companies and vessels owned by foreign companies or persons prohibited to fish in the Russian waters.

As of the beginning of 2009 another important article will come into effect, stipulating that foreign-flagged vessels owned by foreign companies will not get catch quota as it has been practiced in the leading fishing countries of the USA, Norway and Iceland. The idea of the law makers is to make the industry focus on the national needs. Commenting on the above, Russia's fishery head Andrey Krainy says that that the authorities are certainly not going to revise intergovernmental agreements, but the country is supposed to fish in the national EEZ with the highest efficiency as possible.

For instance, according to the intergovernmental agreement with Norway, the Russian fishermen can harvest cod in the Norwegian EEZ because the transboundary stock is mutually managed by the both countries due to its migration from one EEZ to another.

Incentives to land fish at home

According to the amended law, aquatic biological resources commercially harvested in the inland marine waters of the Russian Federation, its territorial sea, on the continental shelf and in the Russian EEZ as well as products made from them shall be subject to delivery to the customs territory of the Russian Federation.

As of 1 January 2008 the Russian fishermen will pay only 10% of the resource fee for exploitation of aquatic biological resources for their catches landed in home ports, while for exported fish they will have to pay 100% of the above tax. The idea behind the measure is to encourage the Russian fishermen to land catches for processing or sale at home rather than bringing them directly to foreign ports.

As of 1 January 2009 all the fish harvested in the nation's EEZ and on the continental shelf is to be first cleared in the Russian Customs and then either exported or landed at home. The condition will come into effect with a one-year delay because at present the Russian ports are not able to handle all the catches. The delay will be used to reduce the cargo clearance procedure in the Russian ports from several days to a couple of hours just like in the European and Asian ports, said Andrey Krainy, head of Russia's State Fisheries Committee.

Salmon fishery

The amended law contains a new article called Fishery of Anadromous Species stipulating that the Fishery Management Commission shall be led by the region's head. (Anadromous fish migrates from seas to rivers for spawning and this will mostly apply to the big salmon fisheries in the Russian Far East.)

The approved amendments to the federal law also provide the Russian fishermen with concession rights to exploit the salmon rivers for a period of 20 years subject to investments into construction of fish processing plants, etc. According to Andrey Krainy, Russian businessmen have been long waiting for the above decision.

Research fishery

According to the amended law, fishery of aquatic biological resources for research and control purposes shall be carried out in the volume needed for research purposes.

Quota distribution

According to the amendments, the rules of approving the TACs should be changed.

The document reconfirms the historical principle of quota distribution between the users. Offshore and inshore quotas, as well as quotas under the international agreements shall be distributed by means of agreements on assigning the quota shares for a period of 10 years based on data from the fishery register through the recent four years.

The amended law provides for redistribution of the proceeds from the resource fees in favour of the regions on a 80% to 20% basis.

Seafood exchange

The Government of the Russian Federation is commissioned to create, until 1 July 2008, conditions for sale of aquatic biological resources and products from them at the commodity exchange.

War with poachers

The amended law declares war with poachers. First of all, the data of the vessels' monitoring system will be now taken as material evidence by the court. For comparison, now, when the satellite monitors that the vessel moves overland thus proving that the special onboard equipment has been disabled, the information has a merely cognitive meaning inapplicable when the case is taken to court.

Second, the infringers will be deprived of the fishing rights, fishing gear and vessels, the latter has been practically impossible so far. The document also stipulates that seized for gratis or forfeit vessels which have not been sold at auctions shall be subject to destruction.

Evidently, certain impediments for poachers have been made by another article of the amended law stipulating that until 1 July 2008 the Government is commissioned to create conditions for sale of aquatic biological stocks and products from them via a commodity exchange to increase transparency of the goods flow.

The amendments which have been approved both by the Lower House in the third reading and by the Upper House greatly differ from the version approved by the Lower House in the first reading. The first version has given rise to large criticism both by the State Fisheries Committee and by the fishermen as it has been not in keeping with President's guidelines made public at the fishery industry presidium in Astrakhan.

The law is to come into force as of 1 January 2008 subject to pending President's signature.

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