Japan and Russia have agreed on a sharp cut in this year’s quota for salmon and trout fished by Japanese ships within Russia’s exclusive economic zone, according to the Japanese Fisheries Agency.
The two countries also agreed that the Japanese side will switch from drift-net fishing to a form of trawling following a Russian ban on the former method in January.
Despite the precipitous cut, from last year’s 1,961.75 tons to a meager 68.88 tons, the new quota is not expected to greatly affect the supplies of salmon and trout in Japan because these species of fish are imported in large quantities from countries such as Chile and Norway.
Under the agreement, Japanese vessels are allowed to operate within the Russian EEZ between July 13 and 26, and the Japanese government will pay Russia about ¥21 million ($193,000) in fishing fees, a fraction of the roughly ¥600 million Japanese fishermen paid last year.
Only one ship, commissioned by the Fisheries Agency to trial the trawling method, will ply the waters this year, compared to 19 last year.
Critics of drift-net fishing, including many environmental groups like Greenpeace, say that it leads to unsustainable levels of bycatch — the snagging of a wide range of nontargeted fish and mammal species. But fishermen consider it more effective than other methods, so trawling for salmon and trout in the area may prove unprofitable.
Japanese fishermen that pursue salmon and trout within the Russian EEZ could therefore find themselves financially motivated to target other species in the future.
In 2015, Tokyo and Moscow agreed on a 70 percent year-on-year cut in that year’s quota for Japanese fishermen. In January, Russia banned drift-net fishing within its EEZ in the name of marine resource management, prompting Japan to explore alternative fishing methods.
In 2015, Japan imported about 248,900 tons of salmon and trout. Japanese vessels caught about 1,300 tons in the Russian EEZ the same year.