Japan is concerned at the fact that Russia canceled a bilateral agreement under which Japanese fishermen could freely fish and crab in the waters of the Southern Kurils.
Will quotas be taken away from Japan for non-payment?
Russia has suspended implementation of the intergovernmental agreement with Japan on cooperation in the fishing of marine living resources.
According to the bilateral agreement signed by the two countries in 1998, Japanese fishermen could fish off the Southern Kurils within the quota allocated by the Russian side in exchange for payments and aid to the Sakhalin Oblast
“Unfortunately, Tokyo has adopted a policy of “freezing” payments under the agreement, delaying the signing of the annual executive document on the provision of gratuitous technical assistance to the Sakhalin Region, which is an integral element of the functioning of this intergovernmental agreement,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Japanese authorities expressed regret and citizens – dissatisfaction
The Japanese authorities expressed regret over Moscow's decision, although they acknowledged that they had not made another payment as part of the implementation of the agreement.
“We intend to continue consultations with the Russian side to enable the Japanese side to continue activities under the agreement,” said a representative of the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Meanwhile, the Japanese Fisheries Agency is clarifying the circumstances of the situation through the channels of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to RIA Novosti, some Twitter users from Japan considered the step of Russia on the agreement on sea fishing as natural.
“It's our own fault! This is the failure of our ruling party!” wrote the user with nickname ‘rikihos.’
According to another social network user, calling himself 2018_apc, all this is happening because the Japanese government “sits twiddling thumbs.”
“In order to avoid claims for our poor fishermen, much less harassment by the Russian authorities, we had better firmly adhere to all the terms of agreements with them on quotas, fishing terms, and compensation payments,” wrote a user with the nickname tz6uVdNI3yN2YQS.
What is more important for Japan? Fish or the Kurils?
The agreement on cooperation on certain issues in the segment of fishing of marine living resources was signed with Japan in 1998. Under the terms of the treaty, the countries cooperated “for the purpose of fishing for living resources by Japanese fishing vessels” in the sea area bounded by straight geodesic lines connecting the coordinates near the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai.
In April, Moscow and Tokyo agreed on a salmon fishing quota for fiscal year 2022. As reported by the Fisheries Agency of Japan, the Japanese side must pay Russia from 200 million to 313 million yen, depending on the volume of fish caught.
Under the quota, Japanese fishermen can catch up to 2,300 tons a year. It allows catching salmon, pollock, herring, crabs, sea urchins, seaweed, and other species.
The quota, of course, was relatively small, but for Japan it was not so much the volume of fish caught that was important, as the fact that in this way they demonstrated to their people the Japanese presence near the Kuril Islands. It was like everything was going to a peace treaty with Russia and very soon they would get “their territories back.”
“The Northern Territories are islands over which Japan has sovereignty and which are an ancestral part of Japan, but at present they are illegally occupied by Russia,” said the representatives of the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
But they haven't, and they've also been sent away from our shores altogether, including visa-free entry to the Kurils for Japanese citizens. As a result, the Japanese government had to somehow explain to its people that the return of the Kuril Islands has been delayed again.
Sakhalin supports decision
“Fishery experts who are responsible for international fisheries relations were against the conclusion of such an agreement from the very beginning as unilateral and unbalanced in its objectives,” said Sergei Ponomarev, Head of the Sakhalin branch of the Russian Geographical Society. According to him, a number of articles of the agreement signed in 1998 and memorandums show that Japanese fishing vessels fish for marine living resources in the Russian territorial waters of the Southern Kuril Islands “without prior arrangement, and even control themselves.”
Moreover, the agreement does not specify that these are Russian territorial waters, which are subject to the relevant legislation.
Ponomarev also believes that the agreement is not balanced and is not equitable, since Japan does not allow Russia to fish in its territorial waters. In addition, Japanese fishing in the territorial waters of the Russian South Kuril Islands takes place over a large sea area, which prevents our fishermen from catching fish in the area.
Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev said that after the ban on fishing by Japanese fishermen, Russian fishing enterprises will catch fish. In Russia, the fishing business is quota-based and there is a shortage of areas where it is possible to catch fish efficiently. That is why Russian companies will take the place of Japanese companies.