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7 Sep, 2007 03:47

Russian fishing industry in for an overhaul

The Head of the Russian Federal Fisheries Service has called for a united body to regulate the industry, currently supervised by sixteen different departments.

This comes as the President has made reviving the country's ailing fisheries an economic priority.

Russia's influence on the global fishing industry is a fraction of what it once was.

It harvests around 3.3 MLN tonnes of fish a year, out of a 100 MLN tonnes being produced world-wide.

“We used to have one of the biggest fishing industries in the world in the 70s. What happened? I'll tell you! For the last 15 years, Russia paid almost no attention to the fishing industry. The largest players during Soviet times were privatised after the collapse of the USSR, in a process that was quick and poorly thought-through. Now, we have a whole bunch of small private companies, who cannot afford to get credit or renew their fleets,” stated Andrey Krainy, the head of Federal Fisheries Service.

The government wants to set up a nationwide body to regulate the industry and is discussing a proposal to ban foreign ownership of Russian fishing vessel operators in which China, Japan and Korea have large stakes.

Neighbouring Norway has one of the largest fishing industries in the world.

Each year it agrees with Russia on quotas for how much the two countries can catch in the Barents Sea, to their North.

The Norwegian Fisheries Counsellor says relations between the two countries on the issue remain amicable and says Norway is not complaining about Russia's plan to ban foreign ownership.

“In Norway we have this philosophy, where the actual fishing activity is designated to Norwegian citizens on Norwegian quotas. As regards the processing and import-export trade, value adding, they are open to anyone who is interested in this,” outlined Frode Nillsen, Norwegian Fisheries Councellor.

So far, Russia has not said it will stop foreign ownership in its on-shore fish industries. But Russian distributor “Russkoye Morye” is reportedly pulling out of an agreement to sell a 20% stake to Norway's Austevoll.

Nilssen says “Russkoye Morye's” decision seems to have been based on business, not politics but does not discount the idea that a sea change is underway in Russia's approach to its entire fishing industry.