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Species diversity and use of biological resources
Russia Fisheries Crisis
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The fishing industry has been an important sector in regional economic development for two centuries.  Salmon and sturgeon were initially the most sought after species: a record 100,000 tons of salmon were caught in 1910.  By the 1990s, however, the catch in Russia had declined to only one tenth of this level.  Beginning in the 1960s', overfishing and water pollution from Russian and Chinese industrial and agricultural sources have caused catastrophic declines in the productivity of commercial species.

During the past decade, 90 percent of the fishing industry in the RFE relied on ocean reserves.  Yet commercial fishing in freshwater rivers and lakes still plays an important role in the regional economy and in the cultural traditions of indigenous peoples.  The global demand for black and red caviar, sturgeon, salmon, and other fish encourages overfishing and poaching.  Illegal fishing rose to unprecedented levels in the 1990s, exceeding legal catches by three to four times.  Illegal sturgeon catches in the Lower Amur, estimated at up to 750 tons, bring in an estimated $9-11 million annually.

About 1.2 million kg of sturgeon were caught in 1891; by 2001 only 100,000 kg were allowed to be netted and this was for scientific research.  The officially registered harvest of other fishes has also declined over 95 percent (see Figure on Total fish catch).

Over-exploitation by both China and Russia has been the primary threat to the fishery for at least the past 65 years.  KhoTINRO (2002) estimated the spawning population of Amur sturgeon at 1,290 tons and Kaluga at 2,873 tons, for a combined total of just over 4,000 tons in 2002.  Current estimates place the combined legal and illegal Russia-China catch at 973 tons annually.  This means that nearly one of four mature sturgeon is caught every year, an exploitation rate that could only lead to extinction of both species in the near future.

The fishing industry is on the verge of collapse and at least 25,000 indigenous people will be left without a means of subsistence.  In the 1960s there were 168 settlements of indigenous groups on the Lower Amur-Heilong.  Nearly a third of these have disappeared in the last two decades and fishing quotas for the remainder have been reduced to one tenth of former levels.  The decline in fish reserves has had tragic consequences for the Nivkhi, Nanai (Hezhe), and Ulchi indigenous tribes; members of these ethnic groups either lack fish resources or those resources too contaminated to support their traditional livelihoods.  International efforts are required to preserve the biodiversity of the Amur-Heilong River basin and to help fish populations recover in the region.

Commercial salmon-fishing on Lower Amur. Khabarovsky Province. (Photo by WWF - TINRO)

Map collections:

Species richness

Distribution of charismatic species



Fauna types

Kaluga sturgeon

Upper Ussury –Lake Khanka




Also look:

Species richness in Amur-Heilong River Basin

Kaluga sturgeon

Salmonid diversity

Chinese soft-shelled turtle


History and reasons for the collapse of Amur fisheries

China fisheries

Sino-Mongolian fisheries on Lake Buir

Total catch in Russia (table)

Amur-Ussury Fishing rules

Fish vs Pollution

Salmon vs forestry


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