Russia making modern fishery legislation

June 25, 2009 12:23

After the break-up of the USSR the Russian Federation inherited very scarce legislation related to fisheries. Worth mentioning are the Law on Sea Waters adjacent to the USSR coast and Law on Exclusive Economic Zone, adopted by the USSR Supreme Soviet in December 1976 and February 1984 respectively. However, no one of the Soviet legal acts, which had anything to do with conservation and fishery management, could have been easily adapted to the new reality. So the law-making work had to be done from scratch, writes Russia's ex-senior fishery officer Georgy Zaytsev for (

Some of the most important legal norms and regulations were drafted and became law during the first few years since the foundation of the Russian Federation. At the top of the list of these Laws was, of course, Constitution of the Russian Federation adopted in December 1993. Then more Laws, crucial for the fishery management, such as Federal Law on Fauna (no. 52-FZ of April 24, 1995), Federal Law on Continental Shelf of the Russian Federation (no. 187-FZ of November 30,1995), Federal Law on Inland Seas, Territorial Seas and Adjacent Zone of the Russian Federation (no. 155-FZ of July 31,1998) and Federal Law on Exclusive Economic Zone of the Russian Federation (no. 191-FZ of December 17,1998), followed.

However, the introduction of the above-mentioned Laws, as well as of few more  (Federal Law on the Especially Guarded Natural Territories no. 33-FZ of March 14, 1995, Federal Law on Ecological Expertise no.174-FZ of November 23, 1995, and Federal Law on Environmental Protection no.7-FZ of January 10, 2002), adopted during the period from 1993 to 2003, did not help much to improve the situation in the Russian fishing industry that hardly endured the painful transition from a state-planned system of fisheries to a free market economy. All signs of a crisis were too apparent. The annual catches declined, the fleet was getting obsolete. The country suffered huge financial losses due to illegal export of fish.

Most of the fishermen, fishery experts and general public laid the blame for the disorder and chaos in the fishing industry on the inadequacy of the Russian legal mechanism and, in particular, on the absence of the country's Fishery Law. Indeed, legislation related to the fishery management was split between various new laws and regulations that often clashed, and that created problems. Sometimes, it was very difficult not only to find out who was responsible for what, but even to enforce the law. In the meantime, a special panel of experts, set up in 1994 and consisting of representatives of the fishing industry, scientists, lawyers and deputies of Russia's lower house of parliament (the State Duma), made a little progress in drafting a new fishery law. It took about 6 years for the above experts to work out a draft, which was acceptable for all members of the panel and, as such, eligible to be submitted to the State Duma for approval. And in September 2000 it did pass the third reading in the Duma. After several years of heated debate and discussions, endless changes and amendments, the draft law was at last adopted by the lower house of parliament, and for experts it was a victory which they planned to celebrate. However, according to the existing rules, a draft law adopted by the Duma had yet to go to the upper house (the Council of Federation), where it might be defeated or passed with or without amendments. To the great disappointment of all parties, the Council of Federation vetoed the ill-fated draft. The difficult work of law-making had to be started all over again. This time it took not six but only three years to prepare the new draft. It passed the third reading in the Duma on November 26, 2004 and then went to the Council of Federation, where it was approved on December 08 the same year. After its final passage by both houses the law was sent to the then-President Putin who signed it on December 20, 2004. Unfortunately, the long-awaited Law, which was entitled "On Fishery and Conservation of Aquatic Biological Resources" and registered under the number 166-FZ, did not make life easier for all those engaged in the fishing industry of the Russian Federation. It had many imperfections, some important definitions, for example, that of "the coastal fishery", were missing. It became obvious that the new Law needed additional amendments and clarifications. During the years 2004-2008 seven new federal laws were adopted each one containing amendments to the basic Law no.166-FZ. It must also be mentioned that one more Federal Law no. 74-FZ  "Water Code of the Russian Federation" was adopted in June 2006, thus completing the full set of nine basic federal laws related to the fishery management. As a matter of fact, some of them (not only the Fishery Law) needed amendments and changes too. And the Committee of Fisheries of Russia (reorganized now into the Federal Agency) was and still is very busy making new drafts. Thus, about twenty-five drafts related to the fishery were worked out and became law in 2008. In addition to the above mentioned nine federal laws (identified by their state registration numbers) there are also various Decrees issued by the President and numerous Resolutions of the Government of the Russian Federation. All these legal acts together provide the legal basis for the present system of fishery management in Russia.

Detailed analysis of the present fishery legislation of the Russian Federation could form the subject of a separate study. Due to the limited format of this article only the most important regulations adopted recently are listed below:

  • - Along with the nuclear industry, arms production and sale, aerospace, geological prospecting, oil and gas exploration and production, Russia's fishing industry is designated a strategic sector of the country's economy;
  • - Fish products produced in Russia are subject to obligatory certification;
  • - Quota auction sales have been canceled. They are replaced by a quota shares allocation system for the period of 10 years. A special tender procedure is designed in order to prevent middlemen ( private companies as well as individual entrepreneurs) obtaining fishing quotas for further reselling (as was the case in the past);
  • - The fishing grounds (in coastal fisheries and in the rivers) are provided to the traditional users for 20 years' period;
  • - Mandatory custom clearance of all the fish caught in Russia's coastal waters, on the continental shelf, in territorial seas and the exclusive economic zone of the Russian Federation is introduced. This clearance is to be effected in Russian ports;
  • - Catches of fish, caviar and various valuable sea creatures (crabs etc.) confiscated from poachers must be destroyed by either being buried in the earth, or burned down in a fire, or dumped at sea;
  • - Increased number of species of less-valued and under-exploited fishes, such as gobies (Gobidae), greenlings (Hexagrammidae), navaga (Eleginus navaga), wolffishes (Anarchichadidae), flounders, etc., may be caught on a quotaless basis.

In conclusion it must be said that development of Russia's fish industry requires further law making and from time to time new laws and/or additional amendments to existing ones will be needed. Presently, the most urgent legal act, awaited impatiently by fishermen, is a law on aquaculture, which is yet to be worked out and adopted.

Author's contact info:

Georgy Zaytsev; ul. Zatonnaya 12, Korp. 2, Kv. 351, 115142 Moscow, Russia; tel.: +7 499 6157794, mobile: +7 965 1778358, e-mail:

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