a decade of achievements and challenge

The idea behind a charitable public fund appeared in 1991 in Kamchatrybvod — Kamchatka Federal Department for Protection and Reproduction of Fish Resources and Fisheries Regulations — a federal structure of the former USSRís Department of Fisheries (later Goskomrybolovstvo, or Russiaís State Fisheries Committee). It was due to impossibility of carrying out wide-scale measures to inform people about conservation of fish stocks. The matter is that Kamchatrybvod could run information campaign on conservation of fish stocks among grassroots and fishermen exclusively in Kamchatka province (and in Koryak autonomous area it includes), while fishermen from all regions and parts of the Far East of Russia (Primorsky and Khabarovsk regions, Sakhalin and Magadan provinces) as well as Japanese, South and North Korean, Polish, American and Chinese fishermen fished on the shelf of Kamchatka and in Russiaís EEZ bordering on the Kamchatka peninsular. The volume of fish catch in commercial areas of Kamchatka was great — only Pollack caught in the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk amounted to four million tons. The coastal areas of Kamchatka provided main grounds for catching king crab (Paralithodes camtschatica) and snow crab. About 15 tons of sock-eye salmon — one of the most expensive species of salmon on the world market — was fished there.
During fishing seasons hundreds of vessels from small seiners to supertrawlers like the infamous American Monarch were teeming near the shores of Kamchatka. This giant fish fleet was able to ravage the stocks of Russia's Far East seas even that time, thatís what happened and is still going on — at present the total Pollack catch in the Sea of Okhotsk and in the Bering Sea is less then one million ton (the sustainable Pollack catch in the Sea of Okhotsk decreased by three times for the last three years).
We had to stop it, but neither technical nor financial means were available to run a wide-scale information campaign to focus attention of the world community on the problem of conservation of fish resources in the Far East. Therefore a charitable public fund was set up (initially, in 1991, the Kamchatka Salmon Protection Fund and since 1996 — the Charitable Public Fund for Conservation of Biological Resources in the northern Pacific).
At the initial stage the Fund was to collect money to finance state fisheries inspectors from others parts of Russia to combat poaching and protect salmon on the peninsular, which experiences vexed problems associated with mass poaching like no other region of the country. Forty state fisheries inspectors worked in summer 1991, for the money collected by the Fund. Later financial and economic crises broke out, air flight tariffs raced up and we could not practice it any more, though it was very effective.
Approximately at that time, we made a move on creation our own studio to make professional films related to conservation of the northern Pacific resources — initially, together with Kamchatka State Broadcasting Company, later without any assistance — at first, as Studiya-Vostok Association and then as a professional studio of Far Eastern fishermen. Our first independent film was a documentary one devoted to preservation of Pollack — “About a Fisherman and a Fish” (1994). A series of five documentary films — “The Okhotomorski Mnogougolnik (Polygon)” — on the problems of conservation of Pollack in blue waters of the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk was made in 1995–1996. Another series of five films “Crab Fever” was dedicated to preservation of king crab. The same year is marked with appearance of a film concerning protection of Stellerís sea lion (Eumetopias jubata) — “Who needs him, this Vaska”. At the First International film festival “The Man and the Sea” (Vladivostok, 1997) these films received top prizes — “Gold Crab” — in nomination “Publicistic genre”.
Economic premises of devastation of Russiaís fish resources laid in creation of the film “The Fishermenís Coast” made in 1998. It opened the First conference of fishermen of Russia. Later, at the Second International film festival “The Man and the Sea”, this picture was awarded with a special diploma of the Russian Union of Cinematographers — “For Professionalism”. At that very time S.I. Vakhrin, the director and editor-in-chief of the Far Eastern fishermenís studio became a member of the Russian Union of Cinematographers.
During 1996–2001 the Far Eastern fishermenís studio made several films about history of development of the northern Pacific — “Chronicles of Fishermanís Century”, in which the authors investigated the attitude of Russian fishermen to resources of the World Ocean over the twentieth century, and also some films about particular present day economic problems of fishermen of the Far East.
A new big project started in 1999 — “The Expansion” film — about expansion of supertrawlers like the American Monarch and the so-called “Blue-ships” (Spanish-built supertrawlers), wiping out the remnants of fish stocks in the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. Lack of finance led to freezing of the project — only one of five films has been shot. Due to financial difficulties in 2000–2001, the Far Eastern fishermenís studio failed to complete one project only — a series of films about survival of Koryak autonomous area thanks to rational use of fish resources of the Koryak shelf at an example of a native community — Bekerev Fish Artel — and a young fishing company Polluks Ltd.
A publishing project — books in history of development of the northern Pacific — “Conquerors of the Ocean Great”, “Toward to Sun” and “Offspring of a Sharp Beak God (Kamchadaly)” — was carried out in 1993, 1996 and 1998 for the money collected by the Fund. These books became a reason for admitting S.I. Vakhrin to the membership of the Russian Union of Cinematographers. In the year 2000, the Fundís Publishing House — “Northern Pacific” — was registered. It has already issued three books — “The Riverís World” by V.F. Bugayev, a Doctor of Biological Science, “The Road of Century and a Half Long” by E. Langburd, “Commercial Crabs of the Kamchatka Seas” by S. Safronov and A. Slizkin.
In 1996, one of the largest Fundís projects got under way — publishing of an ecological color-illustrated informational digest (for fishermen) Northern Pacific in Russian and English to distribute it within the country and abroad, first of all in the USA, Japan and South Korea as they work in close cooperation with Russian fishermen and are interested in stable conditions on a fish market and fish resources of Far-Eastern seas, providing one of the most important export constituents of the northern Pacific. One issue (№ 2 (4), 1997), dedicated to Japan and its fisheries, is published also in Japanese. This project won top recognition in Russia and the US. Fishing associations and companies from Russia as well as environmental organizations — American and Russian branches of the WWF, PERC and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund take part in its promotion.
The principle of participation is a business one — each member gets a certain amount of the digest for its free distribution or through Fundís address delivery (like the Russian branch of the WWF). The journal focuses readerís attention on burning issues of conservation and rational use of bioresources of seas, it studies experience of some countries and regions — Japan, Alaska, south Korea, Koryak autonomous okrug, Kamchatka, Sakhalin, Primorsky province. At present, the twelfth issue of the journal Northern Pacific (№ 2, 2001), dedicated to the First Russian-American public conference on conservation of bioresources of the Bering Sea (in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, 2001) and the First All-Russian festival of movie- and telefilms “The Water Alive” (in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, 2001) is being worked out.
On January 13, 2000 a supplement to the Northern Pacific journal — “Tikhookeanski Vestnik (Pacific Review)” — was registered. Itís an analytically informational digest, which comes out two times a month. The first issue of the “PR” was a challenge to the governor of the Primorsky region Mr. Nazdratenko, who waged “war” for fish resources to all regions of the Far East. The major figure in this campaign for resources was Y.G. Didenko, the president of “Dalmoreprodukt” holding company, co-owner of the American Monarch supertrawler and a future sponsor of Nazdratenkoís election campaign to the governor of Primorye. Later, the former rewarded “Dalmoreprodukt” with a squadron of eleven Spanish-built supertrawlers (which yield neither size nor capacity to the American Monarch).
Thus we declared a war to the Monarch and “monarchs” — foreign-built supertrawlers and fisheries oligarchs, or the Russian fishing mafia. A most glorious victory we have ever had was an official ban on fishery for the American Monarch in Russiaís EEZ, as once it was prohibited to fish in Americaís EEZ. As for “monarchs” it appeared to be more complicated: the President of the RF Mr. Putin in order to dismiss the governor of Primorsky region, who was chosen during “general election”, appointed Nazdratenko as a Chairman of Russiaís State Fisheries Committee. At the same time the authorities in Kamchatka were legally replaced by Communists. The latter formed an alliance with Goskomrybolovstvo, and redistribution of property in Fish Industry of the Far East began.
The authorities of Kamchatka and mass media sponsored by them have been putting pressure on the Northern Pacific Fund and its media, they have launched a campaign to discredit the Fund; no financial support (which used to be regular and considerable) was given from the Administration of Kamchatka province, the officials are cracking down on fishermen who have participated and still take part in share financing of our publications and activities of the Northern Pacific Fund to make them refuse from financing Fundís projects and participation in publication of environmental prints.
In April 2001, the Northern Pacific Fund together with the WWF and PERC convened the First Russian-American public conference on conservation of the Bering Sea in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski.
Goskomrybolovstvo flatly rejected the idea about a conference realizing that some facts of its contradictory activities, such as granting permission on Pollack fishing in the Bering Sea without fish size limits (i.e. young fish), which is prohibited in any fishing country. That was why, not only the staff of Goskomrybolovstvo refused to take part in the conference, but also the Committee management sent telegrams to its federal structures (Federal Departments for Protection and Reproduction of Fish Resources and Fisheries Regulations, and NIRO — Science Research Institutes on Fisheries and Oceanography) to discourage them from participating in it.
The last important action the Northern Pacific Fund made was the First All-Russian festival of movie- and telefilms “The Water Alive” (in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, September 10–15, 2001). More than 30 movie- and tele-studios from Russia, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan sent over fifty works about conservation of marine bioresources and water as a spring of life on the Earth. The works presented to the contest created a very good impression on the jury and the audience as well, who had a chance by means of movie- and tele-art to compare not only the problems associated with protection of marine bioresources in different parts of Russia, but also that how these problems were presented by different production groups. All-Russian (in perspective Open for all countries) “The Water Alive” film festival is likely to be held two times a year in Kamchatka, though the present day struggle for survival of the Northern Pacific Fund makes it hard to state for sure.
Still we hope to win. To win together.