Author`s name Olga Savka

Government To Establish Law and Order in Fishing Industry

Russian regional authorities want to be in charge of distributing fishing quotas 

In the beginning of September, the Russian government is to discuss the draft conception of Russia's fishing industry development for the period until 2020. The document was approved by the government on July 17th, 2003. If the document is finally approved, there will be no fishing auctions already in 2004.

All quotas will be distributed between users with the help of simple mathematical calculations. Quotas to catch fish in the exclusive economic zone, which make up about 70 percent of the catching, will be issued to fishing companies for the period of five years. Each user's share will be determined on the base of the average correlation of the quota that an applicant obtained in recent three years, and the volume of the admissible catching on certain resources for the industrial development obtained in recent three years. The companies, which do not have vessels of their own (agents) and the companies, which have debts to the budget, will be dismissed from the distribution of quotas.

The new quota-distributing layout shows: every law-abiding fisherman will be able to calculate the share that he is due to receive. All officials will simply act as observers and experts in the process, to guarantee the lawfulness. However, the new distribution scheme is not good for administrations of Russia's fishing regions. Governors wish to make decisions themselves - which fishing companies will be catching fish. "Fishing quotas for the 200-mile near-shore zone and in the zone of foreign countries, are supposed to be issued to federation units, first and foremost. Then, federation units will distribute quotas between fishing companies," Vyacheslav Zilanov, deputy Murmansk region governor says. Other regions' governors share this opinion. They wish to retrieve the pre-auction system, when local administrations were in charge of distributing fishing quotas. As a rule, the advantage was usually taken by the companies that maintained very good contacts with local officials. Fishermen had to pay for the use of biological resources anyway, although the money was not transferred to the state budget: they either used bribes or  participated in the development of the local infrastructure. The companies, which enjoyed very good relations with authorities, did not have to fish at all: they were given free quotas to catch most valuable sea products and then the quotas were sold to the companies that did not have such an opportunity. The majority of such "lucky companies" did not even have their own vessels.

In the beginning of 2001, the Russian government introduced quota-selling auctions to struggle with such corruption and to  apply market mechanisms in the fishing industry. Up to 40 percent of industrial quotas were put up for auction, whereas the remaining 60 percent were distributed by regional administrations as before. The new system caused damage to the fishing companies close to regional authorities, because they had to pay a lot of money for the quotas, which they could get for free before. Common fishermen had to pay too, albeit to the budget, not to officials.

Regional authorities were very unhappy with the new system, and they started submitting numerous protests. Regional officials say, they want to take care of fishermen, who can not afford auction prices. However, as soon as the government promised to cancel the auctions, the care vanished. "The industrial quotas fee should not be lower than current auction prices, it should be directed to the budget of the adequate federation unit," Kamchatka governor Mikhail Mashkovtsev said in a statement.

The governmental committee for the improvement of the situation in the fishing industry is to hold a session on August 28th. The committee will consider the draft decree of the government about the state regulation of the use of biological resources, which determines the new distributing scheme. The committee will take regional authorities' remarks into consideration too. However, it is already clear - it will not be possible for them to vindicate their point of view. The government is extremely dissatisfied with fishing companies, it is going to establish law and order in the industry. The catching has halved and the import has tripled in recent ten years, the fishing industry's personnel has reduced by one third.

Andrey Kolomeitsev

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