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Shivering clams

Dredge fishing for molluscs - barbarism or a way of catching bivalves, which is no worse than others?

Over the past few years, a real turbidity has risen around the mining of bottom mollusks in Primorye and in the Far East - in the literal sense. The public of Vladivostok actively opposed the fishermen who trawl the seabed, for which they have full legal grounds. Those living by the sea are shocked by the consequences of this method of extraction. They argue that instead of the natural seabed rich in living creatures, a real "lunar landscape" remains. But not all biologists share the common concern.

Shivering clams
Photo: Dmitry Anashkin

Drazhny fishing

In March, when the ice melts, small fishing seiners (MRS) go out to the water area of ​​the Amur and Ussuri bays. Some of them have a dredge at the stern, a structure designed for digging and collecting shells. It resembles a comb mounted on a metal frame that sinks to the seabed, immerses its teeth to a depth of 30 centimeters and combes soft ground, collecting bivalves in a mesh bag. The dredge is towed at a low speed of about 3 meters per minute. After lifting and unloading, shells of only the marketable type and size are selected on board, the broken and small shell is thrown overboard. As well as what is not a subject of fishing: grass, stones, sand, soil. By-catch, other valuable species of aquatic biological resources, must also be released back into the sea. Passing along the seabed, the dredge stirs up the water, and it does not settle to the bottom for a long time, this explains the muddy trail from the seiner.


Draga works in the Tavrichansky estuary
Photo: Dmitry Anashkin

Anadara and spizula are allowed to be mined by dredging in Primorye. Anadara is found more often in shallow waters in a soft muddy or sandy bottom. Molluscs are usually buried in the ground to a depth of half a meter, this is their usual habitat. There are many such habitats where these rare bivalves live, in the Amur and Ussuriysky bays, as well as in a number of other places of Primorye.

These molluscs are a valuable commercial species, which are especially appreciated in Asian countries. Anadara, or as it is also called, - red, or blood shell, - began to be mined in Primorye in the late 90s. The production was exported, most often to Japan and China. In these countries it is well known that anadara is a powerful energetic, a storehouse of rare amino acids, minerals and vitamins in high concentration, capable of curing a number of ailments. In the Land of the Rising Sun, it is considered the most expensive delicacy.


Anadara
Photo: pixabay.com

Spizula, or gerbil (the Russian name speaks for itself - this shell also buries itself in the sand at a shallow depth) is valued for its rich composition and properties to activate the hematopoietic function, improve the work of the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

In recent years, corbicula, a small mollusk, which is also valuable for its medicinal properties, has begun to be mined. He lives in those places where sea water is diluted with river water. It is even available for manual collection, since it settles at a depth of one meter. The Tavrichansky estuary, which is a nature conservation area, the place where the Razdolnoye River flows into the Amur Bay, is one of the places where Korbicula settles.

Active fishing for burrowing molluscs in the 2006s led to a sharp decline in stocks. There were so few of them that local scientists began to study the population, but this did not help either. Back in 150, local media wrote: “Meanwhile, the situation with bivalve mollusks off the coast of Primorye in recent years has been directly depressing, scientists confidently say. There are over XNUMX species of them in the waters of the Sea of ​​Japan, and most of them are on the verge of extinction. " (Electronic version of the newspaper "Vladivostok" No. 2066 dated December 14. 2006, article "Anadara - the sea gift"). Even then, experts predicted that in ten years the seabed off the coast of Primorye could turn into an “underwater desert”. This is due to the deteriorating ecology, climate change, as well as the "plundering of biological resources." Scientists already then drew attention to the fact that "sometimes the catch from legal users of the sites is made in excess of the limit."

The activity of collecting mollusks with the help of dredges is regulated by the Legislation on Fisheries and the Conservation of Aquatic Biological Resources. It consists of Federal Law No. 166-FZ of 20.12.2004 N 166-FZ (as amended on 08.12.2020) "On fishing and conservation of aquatic biological resources", other federal laws and laws of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. The Fishing Rules are the basis for the implementation of fishing and the conservation of aquatic biological resources. Fishing areas in the Primorsky Territory, including molluscs, are determined by the Fishing Rules for the Far Eastern Fisheries Basin, approved by the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia (order No. 267 of 23.05.2019/XNUMX/XNUMX).

In Primorye, with a total biomass of bivalve molluscs of 68 tons, from 000 to 1500 tons of all types of shells are permitted and harvested annually. Meanwhile, according to the defenders of the sea, this method of fishing not only harms the seabed, killing all living things, but also changes the coastline and the coastal ecosystem under the influence of waves and currents.

Draghi - out! 

Several years ago, the caring public in Vladivostok again became seriously alarmed. Residents of Vladivostok appealed to the local media with a request to find out what was happening. Seiners began to appear in places of mass recreation - on the popular Shamora beach (Lazurnaya bay), in Muravyinaya bay. MRSs were seen in the Khasan region: the bays of Manchurka, Boisman, Narva, Tabunnaya, Baklan. Fishing was carried out close to the coast, at depths of 3-5 meters.

Scientists are again talking about the harm caused by dredges to the ecosystem of the seabed. Thus, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor Nadezhda Khristoforova appeared in one of the publications of a popular city site with a rather radical message: “Drazhny fishing means one thing - to shovel the whole bottom. Everything that lives on it. Draga is a cruel instrument. It is very heavy and literally rakes up everything that lives at the bottom. Therefore, this type of fishing is very tough and cruel. He just destroys everything. It's hard to crush a large mollusk with a good shell in this way, that's why they get them that way ”(https://www.newsvl.ru/vlad/2019/04/12/179761/).

In 2020, the outrage of residents reached its peak. Underwater videos filmed by the President of the Primorye Underwater Sports Federation Dmitry Anashkin were loudly discussed on social networks and media. While diving on holding his breath, he observed how the bottom changed as a result of the passage of the dredges.

“What does a person see from the shore? It's just that small boats are slowly sailing near the coast. Everything looks harmless enough. At this time, a completely different picture is underwater. After the dredge, I saw a sediment of suspension on algae, torn worms, broken shells, stunned fish, an empty, almost dead bottom. The difference between an untouched bottom with a natural ecosystem is also clearly visible. Such targeted impacts on the ecosystem in its most vulnerable places, at depths of less than 30 meters, cause irreparable damage to biodiversity. The barbaric dredging method of spisula or anadara extraction is hidden under water and no one sees it, ”Anashkin says.

With a call to ban dredging fishing in September 2020, the public figure spoke at the Public Expert Council on Environmental Safety, Environmental Protection and Reproduction of Biological Resources in the Primorsky Territory.

According to Anashkin, the fact that the dredge is not a prohibited fishing gear is a gap in the Fishing Rules that needs to be corrected. As evidence, the diver cites as an example the ban on the use of bottom trawls at depths of less than 20 meters, which already exists in the Fishing Rules. Earlier, also due to damage to the sea, gillnets and whaling were prohibited - they are considered barbaric today.

“The problem of bottom trawls is much larger, it is well studied and therefore it was solved a long time ago. Dredges have a much stronger negative impact on the seabed than bottom trawls, but they are used locally, almost invisibly on a general scale. If we carry out an examination and calculate the damage regularly caused to nature, then dredging can become economically inexpedient, ”Anashkin said.

False alarm?

Industrialists disagree with the president of the underwater sports federation. As told in LLC "Aquatekhnologii", which owns MRSs that fish with dredges in the water area of ​​Primorye, today fisheries science uses a precautionary approach and allows catching only 3-4% of the stocks. The allocation of quotas to the user is preceded by the determination of the total allowable catch (TAC). It is established by the Federal Fisheries Agency. The establishment of the TAC is preceded by the approval by Rosprirodnadzor of the positive conclusion of the State Ecological Expertise of the materials of annual studies in the mining areas with an assessment of the environmental impact. The research is carried out by scientists of the VNIRO Federal State Budgetary Scientific Institution. The state of stocks, the impact of fishing on the environment, on the bottom population (benthos) is assessed, by-catch is being studied, etc.

“Within a short period of time, traces of the dredge's work disappear completely. According to observations, within an hour after working on silty soils, the diver will not find any path from hydraulic erosion or traces of teeth - sea waves will mix the soil, and the concentration of soil in the water layer will return to normal. The work of the dredge takes place in the upper layers of sandy or silty-sandy soils, while the teeth of the dredge pass a small non-commercial size shell, the grasp of the soil is up to 2,5 meters, "says Alexander Troyan, deputy general director of Aquatekhnologii LLC.

Scientific dragging»

According to the latest materials of the Pacific branch of the VNIRO Federal State Budgetary Scientific Institution, which conducted monitoring studies from August to November 2020 in the waters of commercial concentrations of bivalve molluscs in the Amur and Ussuriysk bays, they did not find any harm from dredges. 

“The use of dredges with hydraulic erosion for catching burrowing bivalve molluscs does not cause significant damage to the bottom biocenosis, which is explained by the low dredging rate - about three meters per minute, as well as by the biological characteristics of these animals, settling on sandy and silty-sandy soils, where they are dominant representatives of macrobenthos ", - said in an article published on the website of the Pacific branch of the FGBNU" VNIRO "(http://tinro.vniro.ru/ru/novosti/item/118-drazhnyj-promysel-v-primor-e-slukhi-i-fakty).

Primorye is not the only region where the public is fighting against the destruction of marine bioresources. So, the residents of Sakhalin for many years in a row have been observing a similar picture in Vladivostok in the water area of ​​the Aniva Bay.

“Every year we see a mining fleet approaching the Aniva Bay beach and fishing. Roughly speaking, they are scooping up this territory. When this happens, the people are outraged. Industrialists change location and continue their business. I consider this method of mining barbaric, and Sakhalin ecologists do the same. But industrialists have legal quotas, all these issues are resolved in Moscow, and the local population cannot influence their change. This is happening throughout the Far East. I have been diving since the 1980s and I see that the ecology is getting worse, "says Vladimir Bolshakov, diver, spear hunter, representative of the Sakhalin-Kuril fishing club.

This conflict between social activists and industrialists repeats every year with the arrival of the season, but there is no need to talk about the victory of one of the parties so far. MRSs continue to plow the bottom and collect shells, and residents of coastal cities complain that their favorite bays and coves are being subjected to such a harsh impact. 

Hoping that industry experts will comment on the situation with dredging fishing, the EastRussia editors sent a request to the Primorsky Territorial Administration of the Federal Agency for Fishery, from there it was redirected to the central office of the department in Moscow, but within seven days stipulated by law, no response to the request was received.   

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