ST. PETERSBURG, March 13. /TASS/. The development of aquaculture, which the Russian government has named a promising sector for the Arctic regions, is hindered by insufficient incentives from local authorities and by poor infrastructures. TASS writes about what officials and market players say about the sector’s current problems and their possible solutions.
The Ministry for Development of the Far East and Arctic jointly with the Arctic regions has been working on a list of incentives to develop aquaculture in the Arctic. Suggested mechanisms could be tested in 2020.
"The development of aquaculture in the Arctic zone is among priorities for the current year. We have been working on incentives for this sector in the Arctic. We have positive experience of developing aquaculture in the Far East, where over two years the production grew by five times," the ministry told TASS.
Russia’s Arctic regions are the Murmansk, Yamalo-Nenets, and Chukotka regions, as well as a few districts in the Krasnoyarsk Region, Arkhangelsk, Karelia, Yakutia regions and one district in Komi. Due to the climate and geographic conditions, development of aquaculture is most promising in three Arctic regions: Karelia, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, the ministry added.
Experts of the national Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) point to favorable natural conditions for growing river and sea fish species, which are of demand in the market. For example, the Murmansk Region has good conditions for growing salmon, north of the Krasnoyarsk Region - for growing sturgeon, and Karelia - for trout and whitefish.
"Fish farming has a few products: first of all, baby fish, which would be put into natural water reservoirs to restore the population. It is most important, because, for example, sturgeon spawns for the first time only at the age of 25 years. Fish farming may increase the population within limited time. Secondly, we shall get the commodity product," Vladimir Zadelenov of VNIRO’s branch in Krasnoyarsk told TASS.
Director of the Institute’s branch in Karelia Sergei Korkin stresses the ecosystem of many Arctic water reservoirs is fragile and may be destroyed by uncontrolled growth of aquaculture population. Thus, he said, producers must take into consideration how quickly and to what extent the used water reservoirs would be able to self-clean when the fish population grows.
Officials in the Arctic regions say only few companies are involved in fish farming nowadays - due to the climate conditions and to high costs of any business in the North. For example, in the Arkhangelsk Region, only two out of eleven fishery companies are in the Arctic zone. Karelia has more than 60 companies working in aquaculture, though none of them is the Arctic districts.
The Murmansk Region offer to fisheries good conditions for loans; and the Arkhangelsk Region subsidizes some expenses on feed and baby fish.
The regions say the offered benefits have favored development of aquaculture. The Arkhangelsk Region reports the growth of almost 40% over five years, the Murmansk Region - 150% over three years. "The production in 2019 made 33,800 tonnes," the Murmansk Region’s official, supervising fishery and aquaculture, Andrei Alekseyev, told TASS.
The Murmansk Region plans to organize modern factories to grow baby fish of salmon and trout. Karelia will produce from 2024 fish fry and caviar. "Trout farms in Karelia produced 32,700 tonnes of fish in 2019, and plan the annual output will reach 65,000 tonnes by 2025," Karelia’s official Oleg Avramkin told TASS.
What is lacking
The support for aquaculture businesses in the Arctic is not sufficient, companies and authorities told TASS. The Murmansk Region’s third part of the support causes the regional budget’s deficit. The Arkhangelsk Region does not have enough money to maintain and serve production infrastructures.
"The re-circulatory water systems for aquaculture require reliable energy supplies for circulation and heating, and the region cannot afford compensating for such expenses on its own, this problem should be settled at the federal level," the Arkhangelsk Region’s Ministry of Agriculture and Trade told TASS.
Besides, producers experience a shortage of operating assets, a farmer from the Arkhangelsk Region, Maxim Kudryavtsev, told TASS. "Farmers normally do not have property to pledge. Special conditions for loans could be helpful so that fish could be pledged. Presently, if fish is accepted at all, it is taken at very high discounts," he said.
Another problem, he continued, is that the region does not have fish fries producers. "We have to bring baby fish from Murmansk, which is too far," he explained.
The incentives, the ministry will offer to aquaculture businesses in the Arctic, on one hand, will be based on the successful experience in the Far East, and, on the other hand, will mind the Arctic region’s peculiarities, the ministry told TASS. Thus, specialists will have to adjust accordingly the successful practice of allocating slots in the sea, because in the Arctic most farms grow fish in lakes.
"Here is another aspect - the State Duma now discusses a package of bills on the Arctic, where one of the suggestions is to lower the initial investment level required to enter projects unrelated to mining. We hope the incentives will begin working this year and they will favor development of the fish farming business," the ministry said.