Ecology and fishing: the future of Arctic resource development
Outcomes of the International Conference on Bioresources and Fisheries in the Arctic29 may 2023
The Arctic fishing industry in the Russian Federation has shown strong growth over the past few years. This dynamic is largely due to climate change, which has significantly increased the opportunities for harvesting and rearing fish in the seas of the Arctic Ocean. But more resources do not automatically mean an extensive expansion of the production complex—the Arctic ecosystem is very fragile, and abrupt human intervention can easily damage it. That is why the International Conference on Bioresources and Fisheries was held in Arkhangelsk on 11–12 May 2023, where participants discussed what the future of Arctic fisheries should be.
Catch a fish, big and valuable
In 2023, Russian fishermen caught 1.9 mn tons of fish, which is 100,000 tons more than in the same previous period. This was reported by Vasily Sokolov, Deputy Head of Rosrybolovstvo, at a meeting of the Northern Research and Fishery Council, which preceded the conference. Moreover, new prospective basins are opening up in the Kara Sea and Chukchi Sea, which are yet to be developed in the coming years. This was reported by TASS, citing a speech by Ilya Shestakov, Head of Rosrybolovstvo.Photo: https://roscongress.org/en/
To date, stocks of fish and other tasty sea creatures in the Arctic have been assessed as prosperous. This was noted by Rosrybolovstvo after a scientific discussion on the margins of the International Conference.
'Global climate change is taking place and this, along with the emergence of new technologies, has set the stage for the active development of this harsh region,' said Kirill Kolonchin, Director of the All-Russian Fisheries and Oceanography Research Institute (VNIRO) at the round table.
However, scientists do not yet have a consensus on the future of the Arctic Ocean's wealth, nor on the causes of climate change. So far they have been able to agree on a large number of comprehensive studies that will allow them to accurately assess the prospects for the development of the Polar fishing industry.
The state actively supports exploration of the northern seas, insisting on maintaining a delicate balance between economic development of the Arctic and preservation of its ecosystem.
One of the documents aimed at preserving the biodiversity of the submarine Arctic was the final version of the programme for restoring the number of valuable whitefish in the Ob-Irtysh fishery area. It includes close cooperation with industrial and energy companies, which will contribute to the compensation measures. Following the conference, the programme was sent to the Russian government for consideration.Photo: https://roscongress.org/en/
A separate discussion point was the hunting of sea animals. At the round table 'Traditional Marine Fisheries in the Arctic and their Regulation', the delegations presented their vision for the development of the traditional marine sea-hunting industry, which is the backbone of the economy of coastal indigenous communities. In particular, a delegation from the Chukotka Autonomous Area voiced a request for increased support for this type of employment. Today the region produces
around 430 tons of finished meat products, and a modular plant has been built in the Lorino settlement to process the extracted products.
Business with a scent of the sea
In addition to discussing the fate of aquatic bioresources, a large section of the International Conference in Arkhangelsk focused on the growth of the fishing industry in the region and the Arctic as a whole. Its three main themes are aquaculture, shipbuilding and training new personnel.
Aquaculture has been identified as one of the priorities for the development of the fishing industry. As of 2021, it is only 6.6% (0.35 thousand tons) of the national fish production, which is insufficient compared to the results of other countries. That said, the Arctic zone is excellent for salmon and trout farming and has great potential. It can be judged from a report on the growth of fish farming in the Arkhangelsk Region. Last year's production was about 320 tons but could be increased to 15,000 a year. This requires the rapid establishment of fish feed and planting material. The industry is still waiting for an investor, but the issue of human resources is already being addressed. From 1 September 2023, the Higher School of Fisheries and Marine Technology (NARFU) will begin training bachelors in aquatic bioresources and aquaculture.Photo: https://roscongress.org/en/
Showing fish to partners
The international agenda at the Arkhangelsk conference was constructive, as Russia's longstanding fish partners came to the conference.
'Given the changed geopolitical situation, we will find opportunities and cooperate with those states with which we signed research agreements: negotiate and work out appropriate solutions together with them. For example, China is our long-standing partner in fisheries, including one of our main trading partners,' said Ilya Shestakov.»
During the conference, a number of events were held, at which Russian experts exchanged experiences with delegates from other countries and agreements were reached on joint scientific activities and resource development.
An important point was the statement by the head of Rosrybolovstvo on Russia's possible withdrawal from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. According to him, it had become politically engaged and was no longer working for the benefit of all council members.
This does not, however, mean an unconditional breakdown in relations with all the Arctic countries. Those who want mutually beneficial cooperation can get it—for example, a joint Russian-Norwegian research project in the Barents Sea will be announced in 2023 to assess bioresources and their exploitation potential.Read more The fishing industry in the polar region Prospects and pitfalls