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Salmon is heading north!

Scientists from five countries discussed what is happening to Pacific salmon, how to save them, why they migrate north, and what is the forecast for fishing in the 2021 fishing season.

The situation with the falling catch volumes of Pacific salmon in recent years and how to preserve this valuable fish species were discussed on February 19 in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk at the international scientific conference "Population dynamics, stock status and artificial reproduction of Pacific salmon in the North Pacific." Foreign experts from Canada, the USA, Japan and the Republic of Korea, governors of the Far Eastern constituent entities of Russia, as well as the head of the Federal Agency for Fishery Ilya Shestakov took part in it via video conferencing.

Salmon is heading north!
Photo: Maxim Borisov

The head of Rosrybolovstvo in his welcoming speech said that at the end of the last century and at the beginning of this century, record catches of red fish in the Pacific Ocean were noted. So, in 2009, the world catch exceeded 1 million tons, in Russia the record was broken in 2018, when the Far Eastern fishermen caught almost 680 thousand tons of salmon. “At the end of 2020, Russian fishermen caught less than the forecast, even with a cautious approach to the assessment. As we know, a similar situation is observed off the coast of other salmon states, "Shestakov said, noting the need to study this situation in order to prevent its further development.

“Therefore, we have declared 2021 for our fishery industry as the year of the Pacific salmon in Russia. We adopted a targeted program and increased the volume of resource research to assess the state of reserves in the Far East. Russian science sees a general redistribution of salmon stocks in the North Pacific Ocean, in this regard, we initiated a discussion of the problem at a high expert level, "Shestakov said.

Russian and foreign scientists who spoke at the forum stated that due to global climate change, salmon are shifting to the northern regions, to colder ocean waters. The more resilient are the northern salmon populations; the large juveniles that go out to feed in the ocean survive better.

“Our science has already predicted a decline in salmon fishing in the near future. These are long-term large oceanic fluctuations. Now internationally, it is once again confirmed that the receiving capacity of the ocean is limited, and this will greatly influence further approaches. We see that the fishery and approaches, for example, ivasi sardines, are growing, which is just in contrast to the approaches of salmon, "- Vasily Sokolov, deputy head of the Federal Agency for Fishery, told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.

He supported the opinion of foreign colleagues that the situation with salmon can be changed through artificial reproduction and new technologies. “If we can achieve larger and more resilient fry through artificial reproduction, we can provide a better approach even with limited ocean capacity,” he said.

Suam Kim, President of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), told the conference that the decline in salmon production in the North Pacific is "a sign that more salmon reproduction is needed." “Over 5 billion fry are released into the Pacific every year. But this is not enough. The development of artificial reproduction programs can dramatically change the picture of the world's fish stocks. We are able to preserve the population, ”he said.

According to scientists, it is necessary to choose a successful period and a successful place for the release of juveniles, so that they can quickly get in shape at the coastal stage, before entering the ocean, which will increase their chances of survival and ensure a better return to their native shores.

In the presentation materials of the All-Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO), the forecast for salmon fishing season 2021 was presented. According to these materials, the main fishing region for the upcoming salmon fishing season in 2021 will be the Kamchatka Territory, where it is planned to catch about 359 thousand tons of salmon. The salmon catch in the Sakhalin Region in 2021 is projected at 45 thousand tons, in the Khabarovsk Territory - 37 thousand tons, in the Magadan Region, the Chukotka Autonomous District and in the Primorsky Territory - 17,7 thousand tons (in each region).

Deputy Head of the Pacific Branch of VNIRO Alexander Buslov told reporters that the forecasts for the upcoming salmon season are favorable, but not everywhere. 

“In the west, on the east coast of Kamchatka, we expect good fish approaches. Literally in two months, our steamer will start shooting at sea, and we will already be looking at the number of suitable pink salmon. In June, we will already more accurately talk about how much pink salmon is suitable for eastern Kamchatka and western Kamchatka. But Sakhalin this year, unfortunately, will not shine with the approach of salmon, ”he said. He added that "fish (salmon) are leaving the south of Sakhalin, and the gradual fish leaving the Southern Kuriles will probably also begin now."

The forum participants agreed on the need to combine international efforts in the study of Pacific salmon. Scientists from five countries (Russia, USA, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea) will adopt a joint memorandum in which they will consolidate their agreements on holding an annual joint expedition in the Pacific Ocean to salmon migration sites. The first such international expedition is planned for 2022, where VNIRO employees will participate on two of their own vessels.

Scientists agreed to annually hold similar international conferences, where, in addition to scientific issues, they will consider the economic and social aspects of fishing, artificial reproduction of salmonids.

They will also publish a specialized scientific journal "for several countries", where they will publish not only conference proceedings, but also the results of their research, the results of the implementation of scientific programs for the study of Pacific salmon.

The organizers of the forum in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk were the Federal Agency for Fishery and the Federal State Budgetary Scientific Institution "VNIRO".

After the meeting, VNIRO Director Kirill Kolonchin told reporters that the All-Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography had completed the merger of the country's fisheries institutes into a single structure, and a special branch was also created to deal with the issues of the united fleet. All VNIRO branches have their own specialization, for example, the Sakhalin branch (former SakhNIRO institute) “80% of its time will be devoted to salmon”.

VNIRO will prepare this year and adopt a special program for additional study of Pacific salmon in the water area of ​​the Russian Far East. Research will be carried out both on land and at sea, including using unmanned aerial vehicles and artificial intelligence. “Such studies will allow us to quickly check any data before the anadromous commission, so that the entire commission can be convinced and receive photographic materials. Only a computer can provide the most objective information. In real time we will see how and what kind of fish the spawning grounds are filled with, ”said Kolonchin.

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