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Russian scientists compile list of marine Arctic animals for production, export

It includes more than 500 new commercial species, the Tomsk University’s press service told reporters

TOMSK, January 21. /TASS/. Scientists of the Tomsk State University and other Russian research institutions listed more than 500 new commercial species of marine animals - from sharks to jellyfish and sea cucumbers - in two Far Eastern and two Arctic seas, and in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean. The species may be of demand in Asian countries, including Japan and China, while it would be more profitable to involve small and medium businesses in their production, the Tomsk University’s press service told reporters.

"Russian scientists have analyzed the macrofauna in the Chukchi, Bering and Okhotsk seas and the Sea of Japan and in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean," the press service said. "They have made a list of more than 1,500 species. Specialists say, 33% of those species are not commercial in Russia, though potentially they are. Fishing those species could not only diversify the Russian market but also build up the country’s export potential. The Environmental Reviews journal has published the studies’ results."

The scientists studied contents of trawls lifted by teams of the Pacific branch of the national Fisheries and Oceanography Institute. The experts analyzed 459 images taken by crew of research vessels in 1977-2014 at depths of 5 to 2,200 meters. The studied area was more than 25 million square kilometers. The checklist includes production amounts and commercial costs for 1,541 species.

The experts pointed to 500 species, which they dubbed as ‘unexploited resources’ - mostly small fish and invertebrates: bivalves, gastropods, sea worms, ascidia, jellyfish, etc. Their total weight exceeds the currently exploited biological resources many-fold.

The article’s co-author, Alexei Orlov, of the Academy of Sciences Institute of Oceanology, told TASS that some of the new commercial species are especially valuable for export. For example, bivalve mollusks could be sold to Asian and European countries. He also mentioned close relatives of the famous Far Eastern trepangs (or sea cucumbers) and ascidians and jellyfish, popular in China. Russian companies do not fish them in Russia, but Chinese businesses do. Other valuable species are various sharks, whose fins could be sold to Japan.

New commercial species and how to fish them

According to the studies, almost 20% of the trawled products have no commercial value, and about 50% of the caught fauna are cheap or very cheap. Only 3.3% of the species are expensive or highly expensive, with their production growing southbound. The industry is not interested in the 500 new species, including the most expensive species, for three reasons.

"One of the factors is that those products are not traditional for the Russian market," the press service quoted Orlov as saying. "For example, stingrays, sharks, sea worms, mantis crayfish, ascidia, jellyfish and others are exotic to us, but enjoy high demand on Asian markets, especially in China. They are unlikely to be sold inside this country, though fishing them to sell to Japan, China, Korea and other East Asian countries could be quite profitable."

The second reason is that the amount of catch is not big enough for the market’s giants. At the same time, the business could be attractive for small and medium fishery enterprises. They would have to develop fishing and processing technologies, but, having solved this task, they may access new markets.

"Another notable reason is lack of information on free available resources, their technology features, fishing techniques, market values and available markets," the press service quoted the specialist. "This is the task the fishery science has to face - to identify unexploited marine biological resources and provide fishers with the necessary practical recommendations. This in fact was the purpose of our article."

Environmental damage evaluation

The scientists recommend using the list to estimate anthropogenic damage to the environment.

Presently, the environmental damage is calculated by using reports from various regulative authorities. Those reports list important commercial species and their values. Those are crabs, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sturgeon and salmon species.

"Meanwhile, anthropogenic accidents (oil spills, toxic emissions, industrial contamination and so forth) often affect entire ecosystems and it becomes impossible to estimate the damage without data on the species’ values. The published list offers another instrument in estimating environmental damage, including that inflicted by poaching and ineffective exploitation of water bioresources," the University’s press service said.