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Salmon Is Disappearing From Russia’s Amur River. It’s Taking Local Tradition With It

The loss of the staple fish has bolstered anti-Moscow sentiment, with locals blaming federal authorities for supporting commercial fisheries.

By Evan Gershkovich

KHABAROVSk: From pink salmon to chum salmon to the glistening orange globes of their roe, Nadezhda Donkan remembers the tables of her childhood always being fully laden in her village in the Far Eastern region of Khabarovsk.

Amur River in Khabarovsk

Now a 57-year-old pensioner, Donkan, a member of the indigenous Nanai people whose livelihoods have for centuries depended on the salmon that spawn in the Amur River, recalls the past fondly. That’s because in recent years the staple fish has all but vanished.

“We have to do something about this situation or our great grandchildren won’t see any at all,” Donkan said.

The scarcity of the region’s salmon is a hot topic in Khabarovsk, one that everyone — not only the region’s 22,500 indigenous people — is concerned about. Spend some time in the capital city of Khabarovsk, home to nearly half of the sparsely populated region’s 1.3 million people, and most will tell you they can no longer afford the fish that used to be bountiful. 

While salmon poachers have been flourishing in Khabarovsk since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, things came to a head in 2017. 

“That year barely any fish made it up the river,” said Lyubov Odzyal, who heads the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the Northern Khabarovsk Territory, and has spearheaded efforts to bring government attention to the state of affairs in the three years since. “It was the first signal of this terrible shock.”

The Black Dragon

The Amur River

The Amur River, which is also known as the Black Dragon River, is the world’s 10th longest. Emptying into the Strait of Tartary, which separates the seas of Japan and Okhotsk, it covers 4,440 kilometersI’m and forms the border between much of Russia’s Far East and China. 

Salmon spawn all along the river before swimming downstream into the nearby seas and the Pacific Ocean, where they spend the next two to four years, depending on the species. Then they return to their original spawning grounds to lay their eggs. That’s when fishermen scoop them up, both for the flesh and the roe. 

In an interview in her office in the city of Khabarovsk last week, Odzyal explained the problem as she sees it. Big business, based mostly in Nikolayevsk-on-Amur, the largest town at the mouth of the river, hogs the resources, leaving little to none for the indigenous peoples who live upstream, closer to the city of Khabarovsk to the south. 

And as salmon stocks have decreased in recent years due to overfishing, Odzyal believes that the more stringent regulations local and federal authorities have imposed to replenish them have been at the expense of indigenous people, not companies.

“What do they do for the region that they have these privileges?” she said. “The whole of the Amur lives off this fish. Yes, we aren’t wealthy, but we have this. It’s our wealth, we don’t need anything else.”

‘The fairytale’

For their part, business representatives are not shy about admitting that, in the mid-2010s, commercial salmon fisheries in Nikolayevsk-on-Amur proliferated and fished greedily. Some of those companies were supported by a federal program that aimed to boost the Far East’s economy by giving companies tax breaks and other benefits.

“The problem started because a lot more companies began catching the fish and more intensively,” said Alexander Pozdnyakov, president of the Association of Fishery Enterprises of the Amur Basin. “If before companies were concentrated in the first 100 kilometers of the river, they then started expanding 700, 800 kilometers upstream.” 

But Pozdnyakov was also quick to point out that, since 2017, stricter restrictions on local fisheries have been put in place as the problem came to light. 

Of the changes, the most important, Pozdnyakov said, was that stationary nets or “set-nets” that used to span much of the width of the river, making the salmon easy to catch, have been cut back. 

Still, he was not willing to put all of the blame on the companies. The indigenous groups, he said, have also exaggerated their plight. For instance, he claimed, last year there were 30,000 applications for special fishing permits for indigenous people, more than the indigenous population of the entire region, according to the official census, meaning people are abusing the special status afforded to the indigenous populations. 

They’ve also come up with this fairytale that we completely block the fish from going upriver and that’s simply not true,” Pozdnyakov said, adding: “This is just an ordinary battle over limited resources.”

Of salmon and men

Beyond the indigenous population, local Russians also are concerned about the fish. 

Over the past month, Khabarovsk has been rocked by protests over the arrest of the region’s popular governor Sergei Furgal on several murder charges dating back 15 years his supporters believe are politically motivated. 

The rallies have taken on an anti-Moscow bent, with one of the protesters’ main complaints being that their resource-rich region has been plundered for its lumber, gold and fish, to the capital’s benefit. Many stated as fact that their fish is sold cheaper in Moscow than it is in Khabarovsk. 

While 90% of the local catch is indeed exported, with most of it going to Asia and the remainder being sold in the rest of Russia, according to Pozdnyakov, Margarita Kryuchkova, chief editor of FishNews.ru, based in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, believes the fish issue is not so black and white.

“These are companies that bring jobs to the region,” she said.

After Odzyal raised a fuss over depleted salmon stocks in the local press in 2017, some of those companies shifted the blame from themselves to global warming. 

So too did a local specialist with the Moscow-based Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography, which forecasts how much fish will return to spawn each season. He claimed that the salmon had left the Amur’s warming waters for Kamchatka, a peninsula on the other side of the Sea of Okhotsk from Khabarovsk to the northeast. 

Alexander Zavolokin, a salmon specialist at the North Pacific Fisheries Commission in Tokyo, said that while warming waters have affected stocks in the region in recent years, Russia has actually gained in the short term. Japan, for instance, has seen its stocks plummet, while Russia’s normally colder waters have reached more optimal temperatures for the fish. 

But Sergei Korostelyov, coordinator of the sustainable fisheries program of the Kamchatka regional office of the global conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said that while there is a trend for warming waters to push salmon north, there is little hard data at this point for the Amur. Even Kamchatka itself, he said, has seen a lower catch so far this year, making the argument not so clear cut.

And Alexei Kokorin, head of WWF Russia’s Climate and Energy Program, warned that it has become trendy to shift responsibility from human malpractice to the changing climate. 

“Talking about climate change in this case is dumb, it’s just an excuse,” he said. “With the Amur, we just haven’t been getting signals.”

Wolves and hares

Salmon Fish

The Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article. 

One of the group’s Khabarovsk-based specialists, however, did agree to an interview on condition of anonymity.

“This is a natural decline coupled with an excessive fishing load. This always happens,” the specialist said. “As the stock grows, fishermen increase their capacity. As it falls, fishermen are caught by inertia.” 

“It’s the law of ‘wolves and hares,’ the law of nature,” the specialist added. “When there is less prey, the predator dies out. When the predator dies out, the prey is restored.”

Lyubov Buvalina, the senior assistant to the Nikolayevsk-on-Amur city prosecutor, spent 15 years up until 2017 trying to stop companies from overfishing and poachers from illegally fishing and roe-stripping — tearing egg sacks out of female salmon before they can spawn. She said her efforts were fruitless.

“By the time you get to the site, they’ve already been warned that you’re coming and are already long gone,” she said. “It’s a massive territory with a small number of people. You need more resources for this work. You need drones.” 

Instead, she said, budgets in recent years have faced cuts. While in past years Nikolayevsk-on-Amur had over 40 fish inspectors, that number has now dwindled to four. 

And although indigenous groups and business representatives agree that regulations have improved since 2017, WWF’s local office has reported very few fish making it up the Amur and into its tributaries over the past two years. 

Mikhail Skopets, a local ichthyologist and the author of “Salmon Fish of the Russian Far East,” said that’s because the life cycle of the salmon is such that it will now take about a decade to restore the previous levels. 

For the marine biologist, the warning signs were clear years ago. Back in 2006, when a Canadian journalist visited Khabarovsk for a symposium on fish conservation, Skopets told him that poachers “should be bombed” for the overfishing that was taking place. 

“Since then nothing has changed,” Skopets said when asked this week whether he stood by his words. “Only now there is a lot less fish.”

This story was originally published by The Moscow Times Reprinted with the permission of The Moscow Times @Stichting 20 Oktober all rights reserved

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India News Brief

23 September 2020

COVID-19 Total Cases:5,562,663  Deaths: 88,935

COVID-19 At a Glance 

The new guidelines issued by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 29 August

Metro rail will be allowed to operate with effect from 7thSeptember 2020 in a graded manner, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA)/ Ministry of Railways (MOR), in consultation with MHA. In this regard, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be issued by MOHUA.

Social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions and other congregations will be permitted with a ceiling of 101 persons, with effect from 21st September 2020. However, such limited gatherings can be held with mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitizer.Open air theatres will be permitted to open with effect from 21stSeptember 2020.

Schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed for students and regular class activity up to 30 September.
Online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged. However, following will be permitted, in areas outside the Containment Zones only, with effect from 21stSeptember 2020 for which, SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW):

Cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres (excluding open air theatre) and similar places remain closed.

According to MHA directive, lockdown shall continue to be implemented strictly in the Containment Zones till 30th September, 2020.

COVID-19: Highlights 

Religious Places Visit: No Touching of Deity, No Sparkling of Holy Water No Prasada in Temples Wearing Mask Thermal Screening is a must 

Shopping Malls Visit: Elderly People With 65 Years of Age and Children Below 10 Years Are Advised to Stay at Home.

Restaurant and food courts in malls to operate at 50 per cent seating capacity with a mandatory distance of six feet between tables. No common prayer mats, physical offerings like prasad, or sprinkling of holy water, in places of worship. Age and health-based restrictions on stepping out of home. Masks to be mandatory, and the Aarogya Setu app 'recommended' for all.

Use of masks, thermal screening, social distancing and sanitisation, the guidelines  require people above 65 years of age, specially  people with comorbidities, pregnant woman, and children below the age of 10 years, to stay at home. Masks are mandatory at all times, including inside restaurants

Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Indian Health Ministry 

  • International air travel, Metro rail services not allowed 

Cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places; and, social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions/ and other large congregations will not allowed..

According to MHA guidelines, in Phase II, schools, colleges, educational/ training/ coaching institutions etc., will be opened after consultations with States and Union Territories.

There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission or approval or e-permit will be required for such movement

But  states have the freedom to decide on public movement.

How to identify Fake News or Messeges on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition

Follow WHO guidelines

www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Don't rely on viral social media messages such as Coronavirus Infected Indian Currencies of Rs.500 and Rs.2,000 Notes Found, Muslim Man Spit in Food At Indian Restaurant.....Always Check Authentic Sources.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they a.re developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

For any further information relating to fake news and how-to search authentic informations from the internet write to us info@crimeandmoreworld.com or Whats App:+919073399779

COVID-19 Related Conspiracy Theories:
https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/china-covid19

 

 

Our COVID-19 Stories

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