Denis Vladimirovich, how is lamprey fishing organized in the Far East?
Denis Kotsyuk: I’ll start with the fact that the lamprey is not exactly a fish, but something similar to a fish. It is anadromous: it feeds in the sea and spawns in fresh water in winter. Therefore, their removal during the pre-spawning migration period is only possible after freezing. It was once one of the traditional winter crafts of fishing collective farms. But now there is practically no industrial production of lamprey! Although historically the catch reached a thousand tons.
For the last five years, the reasonable annual amount of lamprey harvest in the Amur basin has been 500 tons. Quotas are distributed on a declarative basis. Hobbyist fishermen can fish for free and everywhere. Some of the quotas are received by SIM communities that have their own traditional fishing grounds; upon request, they are assigned the amount they ask for. Everything else is part of the industrialists. In the reports they show very small catches, while recreational fishermen and indigenous people do not enter the official statistics. We estimate the total lamprey catch at only 50 tonnes. This is only ten percent possible! Also, 500 tons is not a serious fishing load for this species.
Why don’t fishermen dominate the quotas?
Denis Kotsyuk: First of all, there is no demand for lamprey today. In the 1960s and 1980s, their fishing on the Amur was well established. Part of the Pacific lamprey was supplied to the Soviet Baltic republics. There it is considered a delicacy, a traditional culinary object. They have their own Baltic lamprey, but their numbers have greatly diminished. Therefore, the product was obtained from here. In the 1990s, after the collapse of the USSR, a long transport arm “ate” all profitability, and it became unprofitable to send lampreys there. At one point there was a small export, up to ten tons, to Japan, where it is used in pharmaceuticals.
Secondly, the lamprey is a difficult object to catch. All anadromous species have a large fluctuation in abundance, either high or low. Furthermore, it is difficult to find effective mining sites under the ice due to the complex hydrology of the Amur. Lamprey goes along the stream or along the street, where the main stream is. And its course is very short, from mid-December to mid-January. Fishing is done within the assigned areas, but will the jet or the main spawning passage go through them? It is not a fact.
Is there any way out of this situation?
Denis Kotsyuk: VNIRO is conducting research under the Federal Fisheries Agency’s scientific program to expand the resource base in inland water bodies of the Russian Federation. It is necessary to intensify fishing where the state of biological objects allows it. The lamprey is one such species. We are preparing proposals for the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation to transfer it to the so-called simplified production regime, the recommended catch regime, which we also call the Olympic system. Unlike the TAC, the total catch allowed, no quotas are needed, access to the resource is facilitated. I think the lamprey will continue to be harvested under a simplified regime. There is no fear: up to a thousand tons a year can be caught.
In addition, our employees are preparing proposals to change the fishing rules for amateur anglers. Here we are talking about additional effective fishing gear. Hobbyists today mainly use hook rigs or the so-called lift. And industrialists have vent-type traps – “fans”, with which they also go for smelt.
Lamprey is available. On the market, on average, it costs 150-200 rubles per kilogram. Like other unusual products, it must be tried.
Unlike the Baltic states, in the Far East the lamprey has not become a trendsetter in culinary fashion. Can it become the gastronomic brand of Amur?
Denis Kotsyuk: I’m sure you can. Lamprey is available. On the market, on average, it costs 150-200 rubles per kilogram. In the same range in Khabarovsk, partial – crucian carp, carp. Many are embarrassed by the non-commercial appearance of the lamprey – it is ugly, scary and even scary. But it is delicious. My friends told me that hot-smoked lamprey tastes like saury. Like other unusual products, it must be tried. It is necessary to create a culture and tradition of consumption and promote it, as was done in the USSR. By the way, the Khabarovsk Territory ranks third in the Far Eastern Federal District in terms of fish production, but the inhabitants consume little fish products. Despite the “Affordable Fish” program, they do not reach the recommended 22 kilograms per year. And there are practically no real fish restaurants here.
Can the fish processing industry of the Khabarovsk Territory cope with the lamprey?
Denis Kotsyuk: There are enough fish processing companies in the region. Fish artels have such complexes. Technologists need to think, because the lamprey quickly begins to oxidize – the fat becomes rancid. But, for example, our colleagues from the Pacific branch of VNIRO in Vladivostok came up with a package for Iwashi, and now it is stored not for half a year, but for a year. The simplest thing is to cut the lamprey into portions and seal it under vacuum. But you can probably do preserves and preserves. By the way, from the Kaliningrad Institute they sent us the specifications for the elaboration of fishery products, among them the can of “Lamprey smoked in oil”. Supply creates demand. Therefore, it is necessary to present the product at exhibitions in our and other regions, to promote it. Lamprey is a very valuable product, it will certainly find a buyer.