Kamchatka governor permits salmon catching beyond accepted limits

Kamchatka governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev told the extraordinary session of the Kamchatka fishery council about his decision to assume responsibility for allowing salmon catching beyond the accepted quotas that have already been exhausted. He was supported by 16 out of the 17 members of the council.

Experts sitting on the council have confirmed the necessity of uninterrupted fish extraction in order to prevent fry death and elimination of the salmon population for many years to come.

The inflow of sock-eyed, chum and pink salmon in 2002 has surpassed expert forecast and created an extreme situation in the Kamchatka peninsula. Spawning-grounds are overfilled with salmon and more and more fish make up obstructions.

Meanwhile, the fishes left dead after spawning do not feed fry but decompose and poison the river water. In 1983, because of the overcrowded spawning grounds, a whole generation of fish perished and since that time fish approaching the Kamchatka coast in odd years is very scarce.

In the opinion of the administration, a pause in the extraction rate will inevitably result in an ecological catastrophe because of the death of young fish, which means that Kamchatka may stay without fish in the next 10-15 years.

But sock-eyed and chum salmon quotas for fishing enterprises were exhausted already 10 days ago when it took them only one day to fill their seines with authorized catch.

As to the North-Eastern basin board for fish reserves protection and reproduction and fishery regulation, it has refused to issue permit for continued extraction without Moscow's consent.

According to the Kamchatka administration press-centre, the ministry of natural resources has not okeyed an increase in fish extraction without carrying out a large-scale ecological examination. The latter however may drag on and on.

The governor has also reported that he was warned last Monday about his personal responsibility as he talked on the phone to the president's deputy plenipotentiary for the Far East, Gennady Apanasenko, and the deputy prosecutor-general for the Far East, Konstantin Chaika.

Mashkovtsev told the Council members that he realised only too well that his decision to allow fish extraction was a violation of the federal legislation and could end up with criminal responsibility and punishment. "When the future of Kamchatka is at stake, I am prepared to waive my own interests," said the governor.

He also said he would obey the federal bodies' demand to halt the extraction.

When the council session ended, Mashkovtsev went to the airport to fly to Moscow and to take part in a session scheduled for August 7 at the State committee for fishery where representatives of the ministry for natural resources will be present.

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