The Japan-Russia treaty aimed at preventing illegal exports of crab to Japan poached in Russian waters is expected to take effect in April, according to Japan Reports.
There are varying views about the effectiveness and the need of the new pact among Hokkaido traders who import bulk of crab from Russia.
What follows is a view expressed by Takashi Furukawa, president of a shipping company in Wakkanai, a major Hokkaido import port of seafood from Russia.
Shipping company president’s views
Furukawa says that the objective of the agreement is to eliminate poaching of crab in the Russian waters, thereby ensuring conservation of the stock.
However, he argues, the treaty represents regulations only on trade documents, and he thinks preventing poaching is difficult and the crab will be shipped to countries other than Japan.
In 2002, Japan expanded the application of the law concerning the regulation of fisheries by foreigners in response to the request for cooperation by Moscow and banned the port entry of fishing vessels that did not have the documents issued by the Russian authorities.
As a result, imports of live crab from Russia to Wakkanai continued to decrease, but conversely exports from Russia to Korea swelled.
In point of fact, Korean crab imports from Russia soared nearly tenfold from 2001 to 2007.
The new treaty seems to resemble the old law.
Because transportation of crab by fishing vessels was restricted in 2002, divisions of labor between fishermen who actually catch crab and transporters, not bound by the regulations, transported the crab by their cargo vessels. This ironically contributed to enhancing fishing efficiency.
As Japan introduced the law on regulation by foreign fishermen, the crab market was established firmly in Korea, to which bulk of the catch was exported from Russia.
Under the new agreement, it seems the exports to Japan will decrease further as the transport vessels will also be required to submit Russian export certificates.
Because the bilateral treaty is aimed at regulating fishing and trade under each country’s domestic laws, loopholes will inevitably emerge, through which more catch are destined to the countries where regulation is less rigid, as a result accelerating distribution of crab in such countries.
If exports to third countries increase, transportation costs will become larger than shipment costs to Hokkaido, a region located closer to Russian fishing grounds.
Therefore, shuttle transportation will become necessary if you wish to continue business as in previously.
This means that more catch in the Russian waters than at present will be needed. Will this kind of situation truly contribute to stock conservation?
In order to eliminate poaching seriously, it seem crucial to take more drastic measures, such as developing a multi-lateral treaty or Russia making public the actual state of fisheries in a bid to make the fishing activities more transparent.
Furukawa said he has a sense of crisis over the impact that the treaty could inflict negative impact on local economy in Wakkanai.
Rumors are beginning to go around in the fisheries industry in Wakkanai that the city’s population, which now stands at about 37,000, could decrease by as much as 10,000 in the years ahead.
If poaching is stopped and all the crab catch is carried out in compliance with the law, Russians will surely export their crab to Hokkaido, a region located at the shortest distance from their fishing grounds.
After the taking effect of the new pact, it is hoped that Russia will cooperate with all the countries concerned to establish a system in which no loopholes are allowed, Furukawa said.