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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Bans Fishing in Far East Sea

Russia has banned fishing in international waters in the Sea of Okhotsk and may block the passage of a Polish fleet which has ignored the decree, a Russian fishing official said Thursday.

Vyacheslav Silanov, deputy director of the Russian Fisheries Committee, told a press conference that the Russian parliament banned all fishing in the area April 16, because within two years it would have wiped out the stock of mintai, a Pacific Ocean fish which accounts for about 20 percent of the Russian catch.

He said the Republics of Korea and China removed their ships after being informed about the ban in the center of the sea. Japanese ships had already withdrawn voluntarily. He said the Russian government was considering blocking the Polish fishing ships which have stayed in the area.

The Sea of Okhotsk in Russia's Far East is almost totally surrounded by Russian territory, making it part of Russia's 200-mile economic zone. But the center of the sea, only three percent of the total area, is more than 200 kilometers away from the Russian coast and is technically open sea. The mintai swim through this strip after they spawn, allowing foreign fleets to fish the area from international waters.

The ban applies equally to Russian and foreign fishing vessels in this strip, but not to the territorial waters nearer Russia's coast.

Silanov said that over the past few years international fishing fleets have increased the amount of mintai they catch to over 1 million tons without taking any surveys of the effect on stocks. He said this was destroying the sea's fishing resources and Russian catch in the area had fallen in the last year by about 500, 000 tons to about 1 million.

Attempts by Russian authorities to police illegal fishing within Russian territorial waters have already sparked several incidents this year.

Silanov said that Russian and international fleets will continue to fish in the coastal areas of the sea, under Russia's licensing system. He added that the Russian law was in line with a U. N. convention, but the situation was unique because the Sea of Okhotsk was contained in the boundaries of one country.