More than 500 species of marine macrofauna can expand the Russian fish

1 February 2021

Russian scientists have carried out a large-scale analysis of the macrofauna of the Chukchi, Bering, Okhotsk, and Japan seas and the North Pacific Ocean and compiled a list of more than 1,500 species based on the results. According to the experts, 33% of these species are potentially commercial in Russia. Their production could not only diversify the Russian market but also significantly enhance the export potential of the Russian Federation. The research is published in the highly ranked journal (Q1) Environmental Reviews.

- To assess the trawl macrofauna of two Far Eastern and one Arctic sea, and the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, data on the composition of trawl catches of the Pacific Branch of the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) were used, - says Aleksey Orlov, one of the authors of the article, a staff member of the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, VNIRO, and the TSU Biological Institute. - 459 scientific surveys of research vessels (at depths from 5 m to 2,200 m) were analyzed for 1977 to 2014. The study area was over 25 million km². The checklist includes 1,541 species, with information on the output and commercial value indicated for each.    

A revision of the macrofauna showed that almost 20% of the species in the trawl catches had no commercial value, and about 50% were cheap. Only 3.3% of the species are expensive and the number of catches increases from north to south. About 500 species are unexploited resources, mainly small fish and invertebrates: bivalves and gastropods, sea worms, ascidians, jellyfish, and others. Their total biomass is many times greater than the biomass of the biological resources currently used.

- Currently, the industry is not showing interest in these types for a number of reasons, - says Alexey Orlov. - One of the main factors is their nontraditional nature for the domestic market. For example, stingrays, sharks, sea worms, praying mantises, ascidians, jellyfish, and other exotic marine fauna for us are in high demand in Asian markets, especially in China. It is unlikely that they will ever appear on Russian shelves, but it may be quite profitable to extract them for export to Japan, China, Korea, and other countries in East Asia.

Another factor is that small amounts of catch discourage large companies, but such fishing can be profitable for small organizations and will contribute to the development of small and medium-sized private businesses in the fishing industry.

- Another important reason limiting fishing is the lack of information about the availability of free, undeveloped resources, their technological properties, methods of extraction, market value, and sales markets, - continues the scientist. - This is exactly the task of fishery science - to identify unused aquatic biological resources and convey the necessary information to fishermen in the form of practical recommendations. This is the main idea of our article.

It should be noted that the published list can be used not only for the effective management of biological resources but also for assessing the environmental damage caused by anthropogenic impact, including pollution in the process of hydrocarbon production, nuclear reactor accidents, poaching, and others.