Overharvest From Illegal Fishing Threatens Crab Populations

A new study released by the World Wildlife Fund says that
crab populations in the Russian Far East are at risk of collapse because of
overharvest from illegal fishing.
The ten-year study of trade and customs data identified
major discrepancies between the amount of crab reportedly harvested in Russian
waters and the amount imported into other countries.
The study concluded that two-to-four times the legal harvest
limit had entered the global marketplace. The magnitude of illegal crab fishing
puts the entire Bering Sea marine ecosystem at risk, the report said. The
waters where the crab was taken are shared by Russia and Alaska and produce
almost 200 million pounds of legally caught crab each year.
Michele Kuruc, WWF vice president of marine policy, said the
US is likely importing large quantities of crab and other seafood which may
have been illegally caught. The problem, said Kuruc, is the US is unable to say
how much is illegal. “We need a way to obtain and assess this information if we
want to address this global illegal fishing problem,” he said.
Konstantin Zgurovsky, who heads the WWF-Russia marine
program, called for better port control and a transparent, international
monitoring system of fishing activity and seafood trade.
The report notes that Russia has in recent years worked to
shrink the illegal crab problem by developing bilateral agreements with Japan
and South Korea, developing a national plan of action to address illegal
fisheries, and continued enforcement at-sea. Yet the problem is multilateral
and it demands a multilateral solution, the report said.
Official customs data from South Korea, Japan, China and the
US indicate that in 2013 these four countries imported 1.69 times as much live
and frozen crab from Russia as official Russian harvest levels.

The report also noted that foreign-flagged vessels harvest
crab illegally in Russian waters, and some Russian-flagged vessels either
overharvest or harvest crab illegally. Misdeclaring product quantities,
off-loading undeclared product onto a transport vessel at sea, or delivering
undeclared drab, or declared using fake documentation, directly to a foreign
port are known techniques to launder crab.

The report, Illegal Russian Crab: an Investigation of Trade Flow,
is online at http://assets.worldwildlife.org/publications/733/files/original/WWF_Illegal_crab_report_final_15_Oct_2014.pdf?1413407573