WWF targets salmon poaching off Russia

by Tetsuji Ida

Kyodo News

The World Wide Fund for Nature has launched a campaign to ask governments and companies to reinforce measures against the poaching of salmon in the Russian Far East.

The drive by the WWF, which raises funds for projects to conserve endangered species, comes against a backdrop of rampant salmon poaching in the area.

It plans to ask the Japanese government to step up measures to eliminate illegal salmon fishing near the maritime border with Russia. Japan is the world’s No. 1 importer of salmon products.

Tatjana Gerling of the WWF, headquartered in Gland, Switzerland, said that salmon in the area represents an asset shared by neighboring countries and warned that stocks will be endangered if overfishing is left unchecked.

The total red salmon catch from the Bering Sea and off the Kamchatka Peninsula supplied to markets in Japan and South Korea was estimated at up to 1.9 times the amount officially announced by Russia, according to a survey conducted by the WWF and other groups last year.

The WWF said rampant illegal fishing and salmon smuggling is probably to blame.

“We’d like Japanese consumers to become more interested in this problem, as their country imports large amounts of Russian salmon and relevant products,” a WWF official said.

It is estimated that 45 percent to 55 percent of the frozen red salmon imported by Japan comes from Russia. There is high demand for salmon for “onigiri” rice balls and “bento” boxed lunches.

As quite a few Japanese businesses import immature salmon eggs from Russia for “ikura” salmon roe, it is possible many products made from illegally caught salmon are being marketed in the country.

Shipments to China of “shirozake” chum salmon and “karafutomasu” pink salmon from Russia are said to have surged in recent years, with much being processed for export to Europe and the U.S.

The WWF has started a project aimed at establishing proper fisheries management in the Russian Far East by 2016.