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MOSCOW, September 5 (Itar-Tass) —— President Dmitry Medvedev instructed the government to extend public discussion of the controversial fishing law for another month.
Medvedev announced his decision to extend the debates after his trip to Astrakhan in the middle of August. He met with anglers during the trip, who voiced their objections against the draft law and complained that fishing areas are leased to entrepreneurs who charge for fishing.
“As I said, it is necessary to finish the work on the draft law. Let’s give it another month to get proposals on how to make it better and avoid scandals and protests like those we saw just recently. But some decision has to be made,” the president said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered a public examination of the controversial law “On Amateur and Sport Fishing”.
“The purpose of the examination is to take into account all of the existing points of view regarding the provisions of the draft law when finalising it,” the government press service said in the middle of July.
The draft law is being debated at www.zakon-fom.ru. “Public examination of the draft law ‘On Amateur and Sport Fishing’ is one of the first large-scale projects in the field of lawmaking that are based on crowdsourcing that makes it possible to use people’s opinions for the improvement of draft legislation,” the press service said.
The government hopes to engage people not only in the discussion but also into the drafting of documents both by working on them directly and by helping to rate their different versions.
Proposed restrictions on free fishing have been the subject matter of fierce debates across the country for several months. The State Duma has passed a law that allows fishing on a paid basis and requires an angler to obtain a special fishing ticket.
Some mass media described this as a sweeping transition to paid fishing especially after Fisheries Agency chief Andrei Krainy said that this would generate an additional budget income “2.5-3 times bigger than commercial fishing”.
In early 2011, a tide of protests against the Fisheries Agency’s proposal to sell tickets for fishing in waters leased to private entrepreneurs swept the country. Anglers rallied in 15 big cities. More than 1,500 of them and their supporters gathered in the centre of Moscow. Over 3,000 people took to streets in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan. Rallies in Petrozavodsk and Kemerovo were prohibited by local authorities.
The rally in Kazan happened to be the biggest since 1993, with more than 3,000 people. Since the start of the year, the main fishing places on the Volga and the Kama in an area of 90,000 hectares have been divided between six companies that leased them for 20 years. A map carried by the protesters showed that there was no room for free fishing left on the Volga, the Kama, the Vyatka, the Sviyaga and small rivers. Only pensioners and war veterans are allowed to fish for free (with fishing tickets).
Protesters believe that amendments to the Law “On Fishing” adopted by the State Duma in December 2010 will only commercialise fishing in the most popular places. The rights of fishing farms, to which municipalities lease sections of rivers and lakes, were enlarged. Prior to the law, fishing farms had no right to charge for amateur fishing and could only control tourist services, which anglers could reject. As a result, municipalities and regions simply could not find potential lessees. According to the Fisheries Agency, there are 6.500 such places in the country. Fishing there will be prohibited without fishing cards from now on.
Since the start of the year, some regions have been preparing or have already announced tenders for leasing dozens of such fishing places that can be accessed for a fee in the future. This is what spurred protest among the anglers who cannot know which fishing places will be leased by municipalities to fishing farms.
However, these assurances failed to calm down the protesters. “The enforcement of this law will have disastrous consequences,” said Rybak Rybaka newspaper Editor-in-Chief Alexei Tsessarsky. “The law provides for leasing lakes and rivers to entrepreneurs who are not obligated to use their profit for improving the ecological condition of the leased waters.”
First Vice Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov assured the public that no more than 5 percent of bodies of water would be designated for commercial fishing, while amateur fishing would remain free of charge.
Fisheries Agency chief Andrei Krainy followed suit by assuring the anglers that places for paid sport fishing would account for less than 1 percent of all bodies of water in the country. “A fee in these places will be collected only for services, not for the fish caught, and 99 percent of waters will remain open for free fishing,” he said.
In early April Putin met with Krainy and recommended keeping the moratorium on the distribution of places for commercial fishing until the adoption of a new fishing law.
“The moratorium must be kept in place until you, the lawmakers and society work out new provisions in the fishing law,” Putin said. “New norms should be transparent and well considered and should improve the situation, not exacerbate it further.”