Friday, June 26, 2020

Russian Officials Allow Corporations to Fish Before Native Peoples, Putting Survival of the Latter at Risk

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 23 – In yet another Putin-era tilt to major Russian corporations and against non-Russian groups, officials have allowed fishing corporations to begin their seasonal catch on the Amur and in the shore waters of the Sea of Okhotsk a week ahead of fishermen from the numerically small peoples of the North and Far East.

            Both will see their seasons end on the same day; and this means, activists say, that the corporations will easily fulfill their quotas and making a profit while the local people, who from times immemorial have depended on their catch, will have difficulty in filling theirs and thus face difficulties in feeding themselves in the coming months (

            This follows government manipulation of the quotas for members of the numerically small peoples who are supposed to enjoy special protections according to Russian law. Their longstanding quota of 100 kilograms of fish per family was cut to 50 and then 25. The 100-kilogram quota was restored this year, but many have trouble meeting it given corporate fishing.

            Elena Konoplyanko, head of the Soviet-Gavan district organization of the representatives of the indigenous numerically small peoples says that officials treat members of her communities “like animals in a zoo,” doling out just as little food as they think they can get away with while allowing Russian firms to profit.

            Russian officials have restricted the catch of the native peoples in many ways. They have further bureaucratized the complicated application process of approval of fishing rights. They have limited the size of nets and lines the peoples can use. And they have imposed new controls because they say many outsiders are falsely declaring they are members of these groups (

            All this works against the native peoples, Konoplyanko says.  Many are angry but often do not know what to do. If they try to fish in traditional ways for traditional harvests, they are harassed or even arrested. And because some do not know their rights, they often avoid steps that might allow them to defend themselves.

            But now at least some of them see they have one recourse. Konolyanko notes that people ask her how is she going to vote on the Constitutional amendments next week. Given that the powers seem unwilling to respect the rights of her communities now, she and presumably others see little reason to change a document that means so little.

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