Russia: Japanese, South Korean Fishermen in Hot Water

Published: 02 November 2012


Russia has threatened to reduce fishing quotas or completely bar Japan and South Korea from fishing in Russian territorial waters, head of the Federal Agency for Fisheries Andrei Kraini announced at a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday. The announcement comes at a time when the amount of illegally caught and traded king crab is on the rise.

Alexander Saveliev, chairman of the Fisheries’ Public Council, told Voice of Russia that he thinks the threat is more an “instrument of emotional influence” than anything else.

“I do not believe things will be carried as far as the removal of quotas,” Saveliev said. “The danger of losing the opportunity to fish in our exclusive economic zone will outweigh the temptation to obtain easy money for criminally caught products.”

Reports from the Japanese Sapporo TV network indicate that in Japan the illegal market is controlled by the organized crime syndicate ‘Yakuza.’  Various groups are allegedly involved in Russia.

Shady competition on the Japanese docks drives down crab prices.  It is bought at low cost there and then shipped to North and South Korea.

Crab is also shipped to the United States. Jake Jacobsen is the director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, which represents much of the Bering Sea crab fleet. He told Alaska Public Radio that up to three illegal crabs come to America for every legal one imported. He also said that the treaties in place to limit illegal fishing in Russia aren’t being aggressively enforced.

“The Japanese government and regulatory officials have been fairly complacent with it because they make so much money off of it,” says Jacobsen. “The Japanese crab industry makes a tremendous profit from illegal fishing in Russia.”

A World Wildlife Fund spokesman says quotas are not as important as improving satellite monitoring systems. “[The current system] has certain flaws that fisherman have learned to bypass,” said WWF’s Konstantin Sgurovsky.

If fishing goes unregulated, the Red King Crab could face extinction.  An agreement aimed at reducing poaching was signed at an Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in September.