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Russian fish producers use domestic selection refusing from import

July 19, 12:13 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, July 19. /TASS/. The development of the Russian fry fish selection, which received an additional impetus after the adopted anti-Russian sanctions and the Russian tit-for-tat sanctions, will result in sufficient fish on sale throughout Russia. However, head of the Russian fishing authority, Rosrybolovstvo, Ilya Shestakov, forecasts the massive selection in Russia will begin in five years only, and in the current state the industry still depends greatly on foreign supplies, though this dependence is not critical. TASS writes about what plans the producers have and how the sector will develop in the regions.

"The dependence on foreign technologies in this direction, on foreign supplies, probably is not critical, but we not always can receive the best of what we hope to get," the official told TASS at the opening ceremony of a plant in Karelia, which will produce trout feed.

Fish producers in Russian regions develop facilities and implement projects to organize own base - so that not to depend on foreign supplies, and thus to have a more competitive base of fry. The Murmansk region will have plants to produce fry of Atlantic salmon, Karelia opens a fish cluster with the selection center, Kaluga will organize own fry production, and the Leningrad region will work on new kinds of fish - adjusted to the local climate conditions.

Fishery authority organizes selection centers

The fishery authority, Rosrybolovstvo, reports the fry production growth in 2016 by a quarter (26%) to 31.3 thousand tonnes. The authority's head says the task is to organize three selection centers: in Karelia, in the country's south and in Siberia. "The task we have set is to organize three selection centers," he said. "We plan, one of them will be in Karelia, another - in the south and the third - in Siberia. We are discussing exact locations now."

The center in Karelia, which will focus on trout, will be the first to open - it will be organized on the basis of the existing Vyga fish plant. The construction will take about two-three years, the official continued. The Siberian center will focus on whitefish, though the authority cannot quote the due time yet.

"As for the other two centers, we are working on the directions to follow," he said. "Practically, the selection work takes between three and ten years, so we have plant, the work continues, but I believe this is a long-term plan."

Arctic plants

Two biggest fish producers in the Murmansk region - Russkoye More - Akvakultura and Russkiy Losos (Russian Sea-Aquaculture and Russian Salmon) - have announced plans to build on the Kola Peninsula own facilities to grow salmon and to produce feed. The region's government supports the project, saying the new facilities would finalize the technology chain of producing Atlantic salmon in the Barents Sea's bays and would bring the region's fishery companies to a new level, where they would not have to buy fry and feed in Norway.

The local authorities confirmed the sanctions had given a necessary impetus to the local companies, noting the aquaculture facilities were not affected by the sanctions. Andrei Dolgolevets of the local agriculture ministry told TASS "there are certain problems with the import, for example, the problems related to crossing the border, and thus the region considers producing salmon's fry - the project is planned long-term - to 2027."

The Murmansk region's Governor Marina Kovtun said in 2016 the region grew 13.6 thousand tonnes of fish - almost by a quarter more (23.6%) year-on-year. "The Russian Sea - Aquaculture Company expects supplies of new fry, and in 2017 it plans to grow about 7,000 tonnes of fish," she said.

Wild vs aquaculture

Sales of aquaculture products are growing, and as it becomes more available at Russian shops, nutrition experts and gourmets argue how much taste of the artificially grown fish differs from the wild, and whether the aquaculture is healthy.

A farmer from the Arkhangelsk region Maxim Kudryavtsev, in aquaculture business from 2006, explained to TASS the biggest difference is in the fat. "Wild fish moves more, it has less fat," the farmer said. At the same time, he is convinced only a few would be able to tell a wild salmon from an artificial, if somebody decides to organize a blind test.

The farmer produces between 30 and 50 tonnes of trout a year, supplying the product mostly to Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk. Growing fish in the Arctic conditions is not easy: salmon cannot stand either big heat or big cold. He buys caviar in Adler (near Sochi, the Black Sea) and grows fry to about one kilo. The feed is imported - more expensive, though more effective than Russian-made, he said.

The Arkhangelsk region has six fishery companies, which in 2016 produced 101 tonnes of the product. The region's Minister of Agriculture and Trade Irina Bazhanova said the local government has more than 1.2 million rubles ($20,000) in the budget to subsidy businesses.

Karelia: closed-loop cycle fish

The national leader in growing trout is Karelia. It takes 70% of the market: the republic's 56 trout-growing farms employ about 2,500 people.

The production grew by dozens times from 1993 to 2016: from 400 tonnes to 21,2 thousand tonnes. By 2020, the production is to grow to 35,000 tonnes due to the fishery cluster, Karelia's acting minister of agriculture, fishery and hunting Oksana Gavrosh told TASS.

"Karelia's government jointly with Rosrybolovstvo have finalized the plan on development of the fishery cluster, which would include professional training for the sector, infrastructures of closed-loop cycle - from growing fish of caviar, its processing and selling," she said. The expected investments would exceed two billion rubles ($33.3 million). The selection-breeding center on the base of the Vyga fish plant in the Sosnovets village is a central project. As it begins working, the industry would not require any longer imported caviar and fry, and the product would be more competitive.

Leningrad region: jubilee with trout

The Leningrad region's 43 farms produce 98% of rainbow trout. They use various technologies of aquaculture: lakes, ponds, warm-water reservoirs and begin using closed-cycle water supplies, the local agricultural and fishery authority told TASS. This year (2017), the region marks its 90th anniversary. The Ropsha selection center, which was founded in the middle of the XVIII century, introduced a new species - Ropsha Gold Trout, which is adapted to the local climate conditions and is easy to produce.

In fish production, the region has been demonstrating growth for 19 years already: while in 1997 the region produced 67 tonnes of aquaculture, in 2016 already the production made 7.562 thousand tonnes - the growth by 113 times. In the first quarter of the current year (2017), the region reported 3,700 tonnes of fish.

The Kaluga region is known for production of not only fish, but fry to supply to other regions, Governor Anatoly Artamonov told TASS. In 2016, the region produced seven million trout fries. The farms had bought caviar abroad, but quite soon they will begin using own sources.

Sturgeon from south to north and black caviar in space

The biggest value of aquaculture is that it fills the market with the species, which for many years had been considered rare and exquisite delicacies. This is true first of all regarding sturgeon, which in the past was practically unavailable for the public.

Russia's biggest producer of black caviar Diana, working in the Vologda (north-west of Central Russia) region's Kadui, supplies the product even to the space. Three-four times a year its caviar is bought for cosmonauts at the International Space Station, the company's Director General Mikhail Novikov told TASS.

"Our company is developing for 40 years, and the main product is black caviar," he said. "We produce about 23 tonnes a year. Supplies are to areas across Russia. As for foreign supplies - it is easier to say to which countries we do not supply caviar - to the European Union, as now they have announced a 100% moratorium on Russian supplies due to the missing regulations of aquaculture."

"The company's business is profitable, we practically do not have subsidies, but for those offered to the entire agricultural sector," he added.

Sturgeon production features 20 farms in the Astrakhan region (the Volga River - Caspian Sea confluence). They produce 450 tonnes a year. A biggest fishery company in the region, Aquatrade, told TASS the business is profitable, though having certain risks. "There are certain risks, including temporary ones, and besides - the competition… The business is profitable, but the investments are long-term, there is not quick money here, profits begin from 10-12 years," the company said.

Aquatrade breeds nine species of sturgeon, including in round-shaped ponds, which is new for Russia. In Astrakhan, aquaculture is the only way to produce sturgeon. Any fishing in the Caspian Sea is outlawed now. On the contrary, the companies working in Astrakhan every year release fries into the sea to restore the population.

Aquaculture restores fish populations

Throughout Russia, aquaculture is used to restore fish populations, which suffered unsanctioned or irrational fishing and poachers. Experts of the Geography Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences say about the treats to salmon in the Barents and White Seas, especially in the Arkhangelsk region and in the Pechora River, as well as whitefish in West Siberia and in the Kara Sea's bays.

However, aquaculture may also threat water bio resources. Scientists fear Norway's production may affect the natural salmon population near the Kola Peninsula and in the White Sea. They do not see any threat from the Russian aquaculture due to its modest scale.

The Novosibirsk region uses aquaculture technologies to reproduce Siberian sturgeon, which is in the Red Book since 1997. "The reason is the poachers, lack of places for spawning, and the biggest damage came from the Novosibirsk hydro system," head of the region's department of natural resource and environment Yuri Marchenko told TASS.

Since 2012, into the Ob River and the Novosibirsk reservoir more than 44, 000 fries have been released from the Novosibirsk fish plant. The program's key task is to have Siberian sturgeon off the Red Book by 2025.

Saratov region's companies have begun producing starlet, which was included in the Red Book after construction of water reservoirs and hydro power plants. "In 2016, the region produced 5,025 tonnes of pond fish - carp, trout, pike and, of course, starlet," the republic's agriculture ministry told TASS. "In 2017, the plans are to produce 5,050 tonnes, involving the unused water facilities."

The Volkhov fish plant in the Leningrad region restores the population of the local whitefish, some species of which are known since the times of Ivan the Terrible (XVI century). In 1925, the local power plant's dam stopped the fish's migration routes, and now the population is supported exclusively by agriculture.

Shrimps in central Russia and mussels in Crimea

The Kaluga region was the first Russian region to launch an experiment to produce shrimps outside the sea. A full cycle to grow white Pacific (royal) shrimp, using a US technology, is used in the Kollontai village. The fry is imported from Brazil, Indonesia and the US. The first consignment of 20-30 tonnes will be shipped to Moscow restaurants within 2017 already.

In Crimea, sea products grow at farms in natural sea environment, head of the republic's fishery department at the agriculture ministry Andrei Dedyukhin told TASS. During only the first quarter of 2017, the local farms produced more than 502 tonnes of mussels and oysters. "Oysters have a specific, Crimean, taste - worth trying," he said. "As yet, they are supplied to restaurants in Yalta, Alushta and other Crimean cities, as well as to Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi and St. Petersburg."

About 40 companies are involved in oyster and mussels production in Crimea. "Because of the sanctions, the European Union has introduced against Crimea, I cannot name foreign companies, which are interested in development of agriculture - but I can say: such companies do exist," the official said.

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