Bright outlook and results 2020 for pelagic fisheries in Russian Far East

May 1, 2021 00:40

The achievements of the past year, the current situation in the sales markets of traditional species, and a favorable long-term scientific forecast allow to take a new look at the prospects of the pelagic season in the Russian Far East (RFE). The grounds for the growing importance of sardine, mackerel, and squid operations are becoming obvious with saury not hopeless either. Therefore, it is quite possible that the pelagic fisheries will equalize in importance with the salmon and pollock season in the not-so-distant future, reports

According to FISHNEWS, last year, the harvest of pelagics in the Russian Far East was marked by record catch for iwashi sardine and Pacific squid and an anti-record in the saury fishery.


In late spring and early summer, fishery scientists reported very significant runs of the Far Eastern sardine. The survey carried out on the R/V "Professor Kaganovsky" in the waters off the Kurils showed that more than 2.1 million tons of iwashi migrated to the Russian zone. The same assessment was made during the period of maximum warming of surface waters in late August-early September.

The results of the Russian research correspond to the data of the Japanese side obtained within the framework of international scientific and technical cooperation. Surveys at spawning grounds off the coast of the Japanese islands show that the spawning volume of the Pacific sardine population has been increasing in recent years, and two strong year classes 2018 and 2019 have been recorded. It was these classes that were behind large runs of iwashi into the waters adjacent to the Kuril Islands.


The situation with mackerel is different. In 2017-2018, this fish absolutely dominated the sardine, but in 2020, the total stock within the Russian EEZ was estimated at 1.6 million tons. As scientists say, this is due to typical fluctuations, but still the schools of mackerel are sufficient to support a commercial fishery.

In contrast to previous years, during the season 2020, the catch of sardines during the entire period of fishing was high. The result was the harvesting of 315 thousand tons of iwashi, a record figure for a new cycle of productive years.

The rapid growth of the sardine population has led to the absence of schools in Russian waters, where mackerel would account for more than 30%. Therefore, despite a fairly high level of mackerel stock in 2020, vessels caught only 78 thousand tons. The most successful year for the mackerel fishery in the new cycle remains 2018 with 99 thousand tons.


For the past four years, the main migration flows of the feeding saury pass at a great distance from the coast. If in the previous three years, a small number of sparse saury schools approached the area of the southern Kuril Islands, then in 2020. they were never registered at all.

Last year, a record low number of only two vessels were put up for saury fishing by Russia. This, coupled with natural causes, has led to the lowest catch volume in the last 35 years.

But Russia is not the only one that missed saury in 2020. Almost all participants in the saury fishery reported minimal production volumes over the past decades. The total catch of saury was, according to preliminary data, only 132 thousand tons. Due to the restrictive measures related to the containment of COVID-19, the fleet was deployed by other countries later than usual and in smaller numbers.

According to Viktor Filatov, a leading researcher at TINRO, the success of saury fishing is much dependent on the number of fishing vessels deployed. Naturally, small efforts simply leave most schools undetected.

Among the technical problems, the lighting power of domestic vessels is still very poor, which does not allow competing with specialized foreign vessels, the scientist stressed.

Despite all the difficulties, the industry has declared its readiness to go to the saury fishery this year. According to the head of the SAIRA group of companies, Vasily Sakharnatsky, at least four vessels from his organization will go to catch saury, and a total of eight to nine vessels are planned to participate in the fishing.

Pacific squid

In mid-summer 2020, the biomass of Pacific squid in the South Kuril area was only 2.7 thousand tons, and in late summer – early autumn it reached 71.6 thousand tons.

At the end of September, the scientists recommended increasing the possible volume of harvest in the South Kuril zone to 20 thousand tons, of which 14.3 thousand tons were actually caught. This is the second best result in the history of the Pacific squid fishery.

It is noteworthy that in recent years, fishermen have learned to successfully catch squid by trawl method in the daytime.

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