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About Crisis of Fishing Business in Sea, Rivers and Lakes of Azerbaijan

About Crisis of Fishing Business in Sea, Rivers and Lakes of Azerbaijan
Markets Review 


2017 June 27 ( Tuesday )  12:04:36
Print version
Русский Azərbaycan

June 27 - International Day of Fish Culture

The Azerbaijanis have always lived by the sea, rivers and lakes, fishing. Images of fish drawn by prehistoric people can be found on the ancient stone paintings in Gobustan. In Soviet times, only state-owned enterprises could engage in industrial fishing and fish production. At the same time, until the mid-1960s, anyone could own a boat and go out to sea for fishing. Since the mid-1960s, individual catch in the sea began to be banned due to a sharp decline in the fish population, allegedly due to large-scale fishing. In fact, a sharp reduction in all fish species in the Azerbaijani waters of the Caspian Sea was associated with the commissioning of dirty chemical production facilities in Absheron and with the large-scale development of Caspian oil that led to the destruction of the sea ecosystem. With the collapse of the USSR, the closure of a number of chemical plants, the permit to private enterprise and the privatization of lands on which lake farms were established it seemed that the boom of fish farming would begin in the country. However, statistical data, reflecting official indicators, indicate a trend of decreasing fish catch in Azerbaijan. Fishermen do not even reach the level of authorized quotas.

In 2016, 678.9 tons of fish was caught in the republic, although 793.5 tons was allowed, the state news agency AzerTaj reports with reference to the State Statistics Committee.

In comparison with the year 2015, the catch of fish increased by 20%, because in 2015 fishermen, who received permission from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources (MENR), used quotas for the catch of 565.6 out of 677.9 authorized tons.

Compared with 2014, in 2015, the catch decreased by 35.8%, as 880.6 tons of fish was produced in 2014 (the quota was 1,295.2 tons). For two years the catch of fish decreased from 880.6 to 678.9 tons.

In 2016, the quota for catching and breeding fish was given to 155 legal and natural persons engaged in fish farming and fishing not for a personal table, but for business purposes. For Azerbaijan, 155 businessmen in one industry are a lot. The question is the uniformity with others or the exclusivity of one entity - a large Caspian Fish holding opened by Heydar Aliyev in 2001, which received a special right to produce black caviar and export it. The Neftchala fish farm and the Kura experimental installation were transferred to the company, which announced the launch of the Mingachevir plant for growing fish and reproducing biological resources and promised to release 150 million sturgeon fry into the Caspian before the year 2015. But with this message, the list of news in the official Caspian Fish website is over. There is no information on the activities of this enterprise. Azerbaijan sells products under the brand Caspian Fish, but imported from Russia, Norway, the Atlantic and Pacific countries, since this company was also allowed to deal with the usual trade and importation of fish into the country. Of course, it is much more profitable to deal with the import and sale of foreign products in the country, because the trader does not need to build factories and pay the labor of hundreds of workers.

The end point in the fishing chain is we - the consumers. In recent years, the annual consumption of fish by Azerbaijanis has grown 3.5 times, reaching 7 kg per person in 2014, while the price of a kilogram of fish in Azerbaijan is determined by double digits. Fish is more expensive than meat.

The average world fish consumption is 18 kg per year (according to the data of the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO).

If the Azerbaijanis want to see fish more often on their table and are willing to pay 7-80 manats for a kilogram of fish, then, according to capitalist laws, businessmen interested in earning good profits should produce more of this product and then the price will decrease. But official figures indicate a decrease in the production of fish and its rise in price. What is the cause of the apparent imbalance?

The first reason is that the needs of the population are partly met by the dangerous work of poachers and second-hand dealers. This is also evident from the fact that sturgeon fishing in Azerbaijan is prohibited, but in the markets one can always find uncovered sturgeon fish on the counters.

The Chairman of the Center for Sustainable Development Studies Nariman Agayev accuses the Azerbaijani authorities of being liberal about illegal fishing, citing the example of harsh sanctions against poachers in Iran. "Poaching in Azerbaijan can completely put several species of fish on the brink of extinction," he warned.

The Chairman of the Ecological Council under the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan Telman Zeynalov claims that high-ranking officials are behind the poaching. "Illegal fishing in Azerbaijan is carried out by certain persons whom high-ranking officials hire for a fee. Naturally, employees of the supervisory bodies do not obstruct their path or hold them accountable, because they know this is pointless. On the contrary, they may have problems," Zeynalov said (Echo.az).

The Center for Economic Research studied the reason for the high cost and low level of fish consumption in Azerbaijan, and came to a conclusion about the high corruption component in the price of the product. "The cost of fish compared to meat (beef, chicken, lamb) is much higher. The cost price of imported fish products includes a lot of additional costs, which leads to an increase in the price."

Indirectly, the poaching in Azerbaijan was confirmed by the deputies of the Milli Majlis, who increased their fine for illegal fishing by 20 times. Since this year, according to Article 256.1 (Illegal catching of fish and other water resources) of the Criminal Code, illegal catching of fish and other aquatic biological resources, if this act caused significant damage, is punished with a fine in the amount of 2,000 to 3,000 manats. Previously, the fine was 100-500 manats.

And on June 10, 2017, new Rules for Catching Fish and Other Aquatic Biological Resources were adopted. The Cabinet of Ministers decided that the catch and production of fish are possible after obtaining permits, according to the quotas in which the species and the amount of fish caught are indicated. And state bodies that control everything connected with this branch of the economy are defined.

Since last year in Azerbaijan, an administrative program for the return of land for agricultural needs is being implemented. The first blow fell on farmers who own small cattle. In autumn they will not be able to return the herds to winter pastures on the plain, since these lands, previously leased by farmers from local authorities, are sown with agricultural crops. This will necessarily lead to an increase in the cost of meat in Azerbaijan after farmers sell their livestock, ceasing to engage in animal husbandry. The leased areas where businessmen organized pond farms may be also withdrawn, which will again reduce the volumes of fish farming. And the increase in the amount of fines for poaching in Azerbaijan will result only in increasing the added value of the product, since poachers backed by officials will add their possible losses to the market price of fish.

The correctness or inaccuracy of such a forecast from Turan will be visible in the official statistics of 2017. -0--