5 march 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Andrei Krainy, head of the Federal Agency for Fishery

The prime minister and his colleague discussed the results of the fishing industry in 2010, as well as the results of government support for the industry. Mr Putin also inquired whether recreational fishermen will be charged fees for fishing. Mr Krainy responded that his agency has no such plans.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Krainy, how did the fishing industry perform last year? How are the measures to support the fishing industry that we agreed last year being implemented? I have one more question, but let's start with these important issues.

Andrei Krainy: Mr Putin, by the end of 2010 Russian fishermen achieved what I believe is a historic milestone –  catch volumes returned to 1991 levels for the first time. In other words, we're catching as much as Russia used to catch in the Soviet Union. This nearly 20-year decline in catches that has marked the post-Soviet era is now behind us. As of 2010, Russia ranks sixth in the list of leading fishing countries, up from ninth place in 2007. Russia caught more than four million tonnes – 4.1 million, not counting recreational fishing.

From this, 4.2 million tonnes of food products were processed. The share of domestic seafood in our shops stands at 77.5%. According to Russia’s food security doctrine, this number should reach 80% by 2020, but I believe that we will approach 80% within the next year or two.

The industry is developing rapidly. The average wage in the industry is 28,500 roubles a month as of late 2010. This is considerably higher than the national average. Fishing is a difficult job, and yet the number of unprofitable enterprises is falling, and opportunities for investment are increasing.

The government support that you mentioned resulted in the construction of four state-of-the-art fish processing plants over the past year and a half in the Kamchatka Peninsula. A plant has already been built in the Kuril Islands and another is under construction. Another two are being built in Sakhalin Island and in the Moscow Region. In short, investments are being made in the industry, and the banks have finally woken up. Not only the fishermen and the government, which subsidises the refinancing rate (two-thirds of the rate), but banks are now involved in this work. Sberbank, Rosselkhozbank and Gazprombank are actively involved.

I believe that it will take three to five years to re-equip fish processing companies. By early 2016, our fish processing equipment will be on an entirely new level quality-wise.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Krainy, the issues raised by fishermen when we met with them – calling at our ports for unloading without being subjected to unnecessary formalities, crossing the state border, some other problems – have they been resolved?

Andrei Krainy: Your instructions have been carried out. First, a government resolution on waiving customs fees was approved, because, this really presents a conflict. Before, Russian fish caught in Russian waters by Russian fishermen on a Russian ship were regarded as imported under the law. The government resolution has eliminated this inconsistency. The bill on multiple border crossings had its first reading in the Duma and will hopefully be passed in the spring session.

Vladimir Putin: Please follow this through to the end.  

Andrei Krainy: Yes, of course. In short, now it is time to fine tune. The main things – the systemic issues that were a hindrance for many years, or maybe even decades – have been resolved.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Krainy, tell me, why are you threatening all of us – I mean amateur fishermen – with possible fees for recreational fishing?

Andrei Krainy: Mr Putin, I would say that something got lost in translation, only I was talking with reporters in Russian. Unfortunately, they heard what they wanted to hear. Article 24 of the Federal Law on Fishery expressly states that citizens of the Russian Federation have the right to sport and recreational fishing on public waters free of charge. And no one disputes this. Public waters include all the bodies of water that are public property. What are they? About 130,000 rivers and two million lakes. Fishing here is free. We are talking about something else. We have 6,500 fishing sites intended for sport and recreational fishing. In other words, it is business – mostly small and medium-sized businesses – that acquire the right to the commercial use of these areas on a competitive basis. They are allowed to lease them for 20 years, build facilities for sport and recreational fishing and offer paid services at these facilities. But you will agree that 6,500 sites are a drop in the ocean compared to two million lakes and 130,000 rivers.

Also, if I live in Yaroslavl and go out to the Rybinsk Reservoir, two or three hours is enough for me to catch something. But when I'm flying from Moscow to Astrakhan, I need somewhere to stay, and I need a boat with a motor. That is what these facilities are for, and I was only talking about these facilities.

Furthermore, on December 28, after the Federal Law on Fishery was amended, a lawmaker wrote that a voucher is issued at these facilities – which are few in number. The legislator said that this voucher is essentially a contract. Consequently, a recreational fisherman who visits such facilities not has just responsibilities, but also rights. And then charging money for caught fish – even at these few facilities – is totally out of the question. Fishermen are only charged for services – hiring a boat, gear and so on. That's the only thing that was discussed.

Vladimir Putin: In other words, you will not charge me for recreational fishing?

Andrei Krainy: Not only you – none of the 20 to 25 million recreational fishermen in Russia will be charged.

Vladimir Putin: So you aren’t plotting anything like this?

Andrei Krainy: God forbid. The law says something quite different. There have never been fees.

Vladimir Putin: Good.