Fishing in the Harshest Parts of the World: Tomorrow’s Reality

The roundtable “The Arctic and the Antarctic: Resource Potential, Ban or Fishing, Elements of Cooperation” was held as part of the III Global Fishery Forum. Scientists and experts discussed cooperation and development of approaches to managing aquatic bioresources within the framework of international agreements and regional fisheries management organizations in Arctic and Antarctic waters. The organizer is the Federal Agency for Fisheries and the operator of the Forum is the Roscongress Foundation.

The moderator of the roundtable was Kirill Kolonchin, Director of the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO). In his opening remarks, he reminded the participants about the government’s interest in exploring opportunities for developing Arctic and Antarctic resources and outlined the key national policies in this area. He stressed that there was much in common between the processes taking place in the Artic and the Antarctic at first glance and that interest in them is developing in both directions.

Konstantin Bandurin, Director of the Atlantic Branch of VNIRO, spoke about the prospects for and problems of aquatic bioresource production in the Antarctic and commented on development of resource studies. He said krill was the main fishing target in these waters. The total biomass of this species amounts to 60.3 million tonnes, with a total allowable catch of 5.6 million tonnes. “From the mid-80s, the domestic annual catch was up to 300,000–360,000 tonnes of krill. And after Russian vessels withdrew from the fishery, the global krill catch, up to 2006, was 90,000 to 120,000 tonnes,” Bandurin said.

A special research programme was developed to boost Russian catch volumes, including of Antarctic krill. At the same time, among the most pressing challenges recently have been attempts to include unreasonably some parts of the sea areas in the protected zones. On the pretext of protection against climate change and anthropogenic impact, some countries propose including sites with commercial krill accumulation in zones where extraction is prohibited. Such sites make up 20% of the total area covered by the CCAMLR Convention, and no major studies have been conducted to date to confirm these threats to ecosystems, according to Bandurin.

For his part, Vladimir Belyayev, Head of the VNIRO Centre for International Fisheries Cooperation, focused on international cooperation in the Arctic. “Norway is an important strategic partner of Russia in the north-western part of the Arctic, and the Russian-Norwegian commission has been working fruitfully for many years now, addressing joint development of cod, capelin, haddock, Arctic cod and seals,” Belyayev said.

In the east of the region, the Russia-USA Intergovernmental Consultative Committee (ICC) is an important body and, in recent years, there has been an active exchange of information on the Chukchee Sea.

Another major achievement is conclusion of an agreement to combat unregulated fishing in the central Arctic Ocean. As the reserves are formed within the 200-mile economic zones of the states, we should realize that the national rules of fisheries management should be primarily taken into account in managing aquatic bioresources, Belyayev reckons.


Alexey Baitalyuk, Head of the Pacific Branch of the VNIRO, spoke about Russian studies on the eastern part of the Arctic, which have been carried out in the past years and are to be completed in the coming months.

He said changes in ice boundaries in the Arctic had not ceased and had not even slowed down, with the ice area shrinking rapidly in the summer months. So, fishery research in the Arctic Ocean is becoming increasingly important.

“The Laptev Sea is the best studied water area in the eastern Arctic, thanks to research in industrial and fundamental science. The results of these studies help us judge the presence of commercial aggregations of Arctic cod there. No other commercial aggregations have been found previously but benthic studies have shown that this region is close to the north of the Bering Sea in terms of density of bottom communities, which is far certainly not an unproductive region,” Baitalyuk stressed.

During a large-scale transarctic voyage beginning in August, researchers will conduct a range of studies, including trawl, ichthyoplankton, hydrochemical, acoustic, benthic research in the Chukchee, East Siberian, Laptev, Kara and Barents Seas. For the first time, science will gain a systematic insight into the reserves of aquatic bioresources and their habitats. 

Of great interest to researchers are the resources of crabs, pollock and Arctic cod in the Chukchee Sea, which is a point of entry of water into the Arctic and of migration of aquatic bioresources, which makes it a suitable reference area for research, according to Baitalyuk.

Oleg Bulatov, Research Director at VNIRO, reported on the improvement in cod stock management and the need for new approaches to determining the total allowable catches. He said cod biomass in the Barents Sea had been at its all-time high in recent years but the fishing industry was far from its maximum potential. This is due to the outdated methods used by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to determine total allowable catches (TACs). The forecasting models developed by VNIRO take into account the young yielding generations when calculating the TAC. However, the new approaches cannot be considered and adopted by the special working group on ICES methodology before 2021. “Such red tape at the ICES is a serious challenge to developing rational Arctic environmental management and leads to financial losses in the industry,” Bulatov warned.

The roundtable also considered new prospects for the application of krill, advanced hydrological processes in the Arctic and the Antarctic and methods for studying them, as well as the possibilities for improving the fisheries of aquatic bioresources in the northern regions.

The III Global Fishery Forum and International Exhibition of Fish Industry, Seafood and Technology (Seafood Expo Russia) are being held from 10 to 12 July 2019 in St. Petersburg, at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre.