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Ex-head of Rosrybolovstva Andrei Krainy on the main issue of the industry - crab quotas

The historical principle of allocating quotas for the catch of aquatic biological resources in Russia at the end of the "zero" years was actively supported by the team of Andrey Krainy, the first head of Rosrybolovstvo, now president of the Fishery Federation. Now, with the example of quotas for crab mining, it is proposed to redistribute the volumes of resources that would seem to have already been bought out by previous winners at auctions. EastRussia ex-head of the Federal Fishery Agency Andrei Krainy explains why the initiative to introduce new rules for the distribution of crab quotes undermines the stability of the industry, since it is similar to the idea of ​​revising the results of privatization.

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- Andrei Anatolyevich, you were the head of Rosrybolovstvo for seven years - the former Ministry of Fisheries of the country. Longer you, this department was led only by the legendary Alexander Akimovitch Ishkov. 2007-th, 2009-th - the years when the industry was developing the historical, basic principle of fishing, companies were allocated quotas for a ten-year period. Today there is a similar process, the distribution for the next fifteen years. Are you satisfied with the work done then? Is there something to be proud of?

- You can be proud of the fact that they are trying to modernize now, what is now the fierce polemic in the industry. Our entire team, which worked at that time, deservedly can be proud of the implementation of the historical principle, which, according to Vladimir Putin at the December press conference, is good for fishing, it needs to be preserved.

While working in Rosrybolovstvo, I often and often had to travel around the world, meet with colleagues from many countries. So, all of them, and especially valuable, colleagues from such, for example, fishing powers like Norway, Japan, China, the United States of America, invariably talked about the world's best regulatory system in the industry based on the history of the fishery.

Let me remind you that in 2003 the famous government decree was issued, and the next year the Federal Law "On Fishing and Conservation of Aquatic Biological Resources" was issued. Often in conversations it is simply referred to as the fishing law. Although, I want to emphasize, both components are important in the law - both fishing and conservation. So, then the basic principles of regulation in the industry were established. They are based on the results, the history of the actual catch of fishing enterprises in previous periods. At first, it was three years, then the shares of quotas were distributed for five years with a guarantee of re-fixing for subsequent periods of 10 years from 2009 to 2018, and now for 15 years right up to 2033. It is important that the current law guarantees the continuity of the use of aquatic biological resources, that is, virtually unlimited use, of course, subject to a number of immutable conditions.

This is the basic principle! It is laid down in the Federal Law! The president at three State Councils in principle confirmed it and emphasized the inviolability. In fact, this principle has become an analogue of the privatization of property rights in the fishing industry.

Remember how privatization took place in other natural resource industries: through the mechanisms of pledge auctions, voucher privatization, auctions and contests for specific deposits, and so on. Remember that the consolidation of the rights to use quota shares in fishermen on a historical basis was preceded by three years of fish and crab auctions. As a result, the one who bought three years of quota at auctions and then mastered it, and he received them for virtually perpetual use, but with a number of conditions, up to the possibility of removing these rights. At the same time, collection rates were introduced for the EBRD, through which the size of the natural rent rented from bona fide users is regulated in the fishing industry.

- Crab quotas are now the main topic in the industry. The problem has stirred up so much that, in fact, because of it, the All-Russian Congress of Fishermen is urgently convened.

- Still would! That's exactly what I'm talking about. All 100% of the annual crab quotas then, in 2001-2003, and a significant part of the annual quotas of other species were sold at auctions for very big money. For a lot of money. Subsequently, the shares of all newly introduced resources for the fishery, including all types of crab, were also sold at auctions for crazy money. That is, the entire volume, all 100% of the rights to catch the crab were distributed based on the results of auctions, and not secured for free.
- Not everyone remembers this, not everyone means it, since they offer to buy resources in a new way - at an even higher price.
- The initiative on new rules for the distribution of rights to catch crab, from the point of view of all conscientious users in the industry, by the way, not only crab users, but fish in general, is nothing more than an attempt to create a precedent for revising the basic principles previously guaranteed by the state. This is similar to the idea of ​​revising the results of privatization, only in a separate fishing industry in order to redistribute property rights. Nothing of the kind has ever happened in other industries and with other types of property and, God willing, will not happen. I hope this will not happen in the fishing industry either.
- Indeed, the principles of law and legislation are the same regardless of the size, the value of the property. However, as an artbut the initiators of the well-known letter came to the president. They also have their own system of arguments. And now the completely logical, simple and non-binding resolution of Vladimir Putin, and, incidentally, natural in this situation and addressed to his economical assistant Andrei Belousov - "to consider and report your opinion" - is interpreted almost as an instruction just like that organize, as stated in the memo, according to Dmitry Peskov.
- "You understand !!!" - in the past, plumbers and KGB officers used to say so, thoughtfully rolling their eyes up. This is the art of the apparatus: the ability to get a resolution "to consider and report" is interpreted as "to execute and report." However, it is quite obvious that in this case this is far from the case. Andrey Belousov would not have been an economic assistant if it had not been absolutely clear to him that the rationale for the initiative to redistribute crab quotas does not stand up to criticism. After all, it turns out that it is possible to take away the business from all existing bona fide users of biological resources only because their business at some point, due to the favorable conjuncture of prices for products in China, Japan and the United States, turned out to be "excessively" profitable. 

It turns out that instead of the mechanism of perpetual use legally confirmed by the state, you can start selling crab quotas at auctions again. Moreover, the most cynical, it is no longer indefinite, but only for 10 years. And in 10 years to sell again? It turns out that for this cynical idea it is necessary to break the current legislation? I do not think that the economic assistant to the president, and even more so the president himself, will take such ideas lightly. Everyone understands perfectly well that this is a clear precedent for revising the entire system of property relations in the country. And tomorrow, God forbid, such an experience can be extended to any type of property belonging to both legal entities and individuals.
- The media ascribe this idea to the "Russian Fishery Company".
- May be. They are new to the industry, do not understand everything, they are just gaining experience. It's hard for them. They need help. I don’t know how they generally manage to master the quotas they have with an extremely worn-out fleet, which the Chinese got rid of in a timely manner. They just need to be advised that such precedents are unacceptable, since they will inevitably lead to serious negative consequences for the industry and for the entire Russian business in general. The "Russian Fishery Company" employs specialists with MBA degrees. They already know exactly what the consequences are in connection with this precedent: disruption of investment plans, refusal to build new ships, coastal processing plants and, accordingly, disruption of the entire development strategy until 2030. 

I do not think that's what they want to achieve. And the risks of defaults on the loans of many companies and, as a consequence, the refusal of banks to lend to any fishing structures? A sharp deterioration in the investment attractiveness of the industry? I'm not talking about the negative social consequences of the initiative and the philosophy of the "provisional". But I repeat the most important thing: the essence of the initiative undermines the whole system of property legal relations in the country.
- Now there is a discussion on the following topic: "If the state does this with fishermen, will change the previously guaranteed basic principles - will it work or will it lose?"
- Even such a formulation of the question is unacceptable. The ability to raise money at the same time at new auctions should not become a reason for the government to cancel the previously guaranteed basic principles and revise the system of property relations in the industry. A hundred years ago, we already had similar approaches, the consequences of which are still raking. And if you redistribute the most profitable deposits anew, for example, oil, nickel, gold, then the figures can be orders of magnitude higher than for a crab, but no one even thought to seriously talk about it! Or is it the first experiment with a crab? Although, like oil workers, metallurgists, and gold miners, crab catchers follow the rules and pay taxes regularly, their business is regulated by a whole set of completely market mechanisms.
- You see, the precedent has almost been created. The situation that has developed in the fishing industry in connection with the introduction of the so-called investment quotas and the subsequent attempts to legislatively change the existing rules for the distribution of rights to catch crab make all participants think about the complete insecurity of the current legislation from the possible loss of a significant part of their business at any time.

- That's the trouble. The right to use shares of quotas for the extraction of biological resources is an object of civil rights, property rights, a type of property. From the point of view of business valuation, it is the main asset of any fishing enterprise. The most important characteristic of this share is its content, which, in turn, depends on the size of the total allowable catch determined by fisheries science annually.

From next year, as you know, a single fishing space will be introduced and, accordingly, industrial and coastal quotas will be combined. In addition, the so-called investment quotas are being introduced. What does this mean for fishermen? And this means that all users of biological resources, without exception, hundreds of companies in the North and the Far East will be withdrawn 20% of their shares. Simply put, 20% of the quotas will be transferred to those who build production vessels at Russian shipyards and coastal processing plants in the coastal regions. There are no more than twenty such companies throughout Russia. Basically these will be large fishing holdings. In fact, this is not state support for fishermen, but support for domestic shipbuilding and coastal processing at the expense of fishermen, as well as a way to redistribute 20% of valuable biological resources.

I want to once again pay attention to the fact that previously these bioresources were assigned to all users on a historical basis, as well as on the results of auctions. And now the volumes go to the benefit of the largest companies. Probably, from the point of view of the state it is motivated, it is correct, and all fishermen have already reconciled with the forced loss of 20%. They are comforted by the fact that at the same time the state legally guaranteed the reinstatement of the shares of all the quoted bio-resources without exception for the next fifteen-year period.

And yet, it should be noted that in none of the resource-resource industries there has been anything like this. That is, so far no resources have been redistributed from one user to another for investment or any other purposes. Nowhere and never before distributed as a result of privatization, pledge auctions, competitions and other things were not redistributed. Neither 20%, nor 10%, nor 1% ...

- The initiators of the modernization of the historical principle have one more argument, which unexpectedly emerged recently because of the tragedy with the Vostok crab in the Sea of ​​Japan, they say, this crab business is criminal and socially unsettled.

"Anyone who thinks so, questions the ability of one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world to control the situation." State supervision of fishing in the sea, including crab fishing, is carried out by the FSB. Still, we must admit that now, the so-called IUU fishing - illegal, unreported, unregulated - is quite a rare occurrence. Russia is a party to intergovernmental agreements on the prevention of IUU fishing with all its neighbors. Well, the Border Guard Service is doing its work diligently. However, poaching has been defeated not only by the Border Guard Service. 

Poaching has conquered the historical principle. Bona fide users simply do not benefit from violating the rules of fishing. Their main asset, I hope forever, is the right to harvest biological resources. Hunters to risk them for the sake of one-time earnings are unlikely to be found. Clear, transparent, and most importantly stable rules make poaching an occupation not profitable and dangerous. But by the way, if a user has acquired the right to catch at an auction, for a lot of money and it is not known whether this right will be preserved in the future, then the probability that he will engage in poaching is enough to "repulse" the invested as soon as possible.

At least, why destroy the system that works great? Look at the economic indicators. The industry grows year after year!
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