It was trawl fishing that caused the death of seals, says Dagestan ecologist Ernest Gamzatov. The captains of fishing vessels informed him on the death of seals from trawls. The employees of Port-Petrovsk (Makhachkala, Russia), even before the mass death of seals, appealed to regional non-profit organizations and the leadership of the All-Russia People’s Front with a request to ban trawling.
Port-Petrovsk’s employees believe that this method is disastrous for all the inhabitants of the Caspian. ‘We, as residents of Dagestan, as fishermen who have given many decades to the fishing industry, do not want to see a dead water desert,’ says their appeal.
Vladimir Burkanov, Ph.D. (in Biology), Chairman of the Marine Mammal Council, Leading Researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences, shared his opinion with Present Time Information Agency.
Vladimir Burkanov: – There were a lot of well-fed animals among the dead seals. Most of them were pregnant females. And therefore, if the reason for their death had been pollution and if it had affected to such an extent, then we would surely have seen emaciated animals, among them there would not certainly have been pregnant females.
Present Time: – It is often written on the Internet that in the Caspian, it is in this water area that kilka (sprat) trawling takes place.
Vladimir Burkanov: – I would call this reason the main one. I have been studying the by-catch of marine mammals. This is very similar to by-catch, to what happens in trawl fishery: animals die, due to asphyxia they drown in trawls. And then the fishermen, when lifting trawls, when unloading fish, simply throw seals away. In general, the issue of fishing is rather politicized, since it is related to the economy. During the trawl fishery, marine mammals (seals, sea lions, northern fur seals) always caught in trawls. But officials never confess by-catch. At the same time, in a calm private conversation, fishermen report that there is by-catch, and it is quite large. Sometimes animals caught in dozens, sometimes none.
Present Time: – Is this problem typical only for the Caspian Sea or for others too?
Vladimir Burkanov: – This is happening all over the world. There are certain quotas [for by-catch], how many animals can accidentally get into [trawls, nets]. This happens involuntarily, and when a certain quota of incidental by-catch is caught, the fishery is closed. Even regardless of whether there is still a catch quota for some object for which the fishery is being conducted. This is a common occurrence. But, unfortunately, in Russia it is not recognized.