Lake Peipsi fish stocks in good shape

Contrary to the allegations voiced by the politicians who filed the inquiry about Lake Peipsi fish stocks, the fish stocks of the border lakes between Estonia and Russia are in good shape according to scientists, Estonia’s Environment Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said in parliament during the information session Monday. “Speaking of yields and catches, catches have actually grown by about 30 percent over the past five years. From the viewpoint of the incomes of fishermen, it’s definitely important too that the value of the catches has almost doubled,” Pentus-Rosimannus said.

She said scientists from Estonia conduct joint surveys of fish stocks in the border lakes together with experts from Russia every year and measures have been taken to improve surveillance, such as by imposing the requirement for advance notice of arrival for fishers and electronic monitoring of boats engaging in demersal seine fishing.

Total catches from the interconnected border lakes, or Peipsi, Lammijärv and Lake Pskov, have climbed from 2 100 tons in 2008 to 2 700 tons last year. Thanks to increased catches of perch pike and Perch, the value of the annual catch soared from an estimated three million euros in 2008 to 5.3 million euros last year,” the minister said.

European smelt is the only fish species the numbers of which have fallen drastically and a ban has been imposed on smelt fishing, Pentus-Rosimannus said. According to experts, the drastic decline in stocks is attributable to increases in the numbers of predatory fish and changes in environmental conditions. The other endangered species is the Peipsi whitefish, the numbers of which have decreased too as a result of unfavourable environmental conditions.

The minister said that since farm-raised young fish are easy prey for predatory species, one should resort to native fish stocking, or releasing in natural bodies of water of young fish reared in fish farms only in extreme cases. A more efficient means is natural reproduction combined with bans and restrictions. Native fish stocking is justified now in the case of Peipsi whitefish only, said the minister.

She also said that the practice of imposing quotas on catches for the whole year had to be changed because the quotas were exhausted quickly at the beginning of the year. Now yearly quotas have been split in two.

“Looking at the increase in catches and improvements in the situation of fish in Lake Peipsi in general, right decisions have been made in previous years,” Pentus-Rosimannus said.

Source: BNS news in weekly Estonian Review

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