In Russia, canned saury is one of the favorite foodstuffs among people thanks to its taste and acceptable price. However, the price of a can of saury has recently spiked above the level of 150 rubles ($2.02.)
According to some experts, the rise in the price of canned saury might be explained by the fact that as this fish has been replaced by Far Eastern sardine and mackerel and because of it has changed its migration routes. Therefore, Russian fish-canning companies have to buy saury abroad. As a result, its price is growing.
If Saury has Gone to Sea...
However, the situation is not so simple. Indeed, since 2016, saury migration routes have changed. According to experts, and it has moved further and further out to the ocean. Previously, it was fished near the southern Kuril Islands [an archipelago in Russia's Far East that stretches approximately 1,300 km northeast from Hokkaido, Japan, to Kamchatka, Russia, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the north Pacific Ocean.] Today, sardines and mackerel have migrated there. It was then that Russian fishing companies, including those that produce saury, repeatedly stated that Russian fishermen did not have a specialised fleet to detect shoals of this fish and catch it.
Vasily Sakharnitsky, the head of the Saira group of companies, explained the sharp decrease in the catch of this fish in the following way. Previously, saury was grouped off the coast of Shikotan. Therefore, even non-specialized vessels that had minimum equipment and lighting fixtures, got good catches. The saury fishery was done mainly on all-purpose vessels such as medium fishing freezer trawlers. At that time, the total number of vessels in the saury expedition was more than 60. The fishermen were able to catch up to 120,000 tonnes of this fish in a season.
Today, shoals of saury are gathering in the open sea. Fishing is taking place in the north-west Pacific Ocean. Not only the Russian vessels but also producers from Asia-Pacific countries are catching fish there. Due to the specifics of fishing for saury shoals only vessels with a length of 75m are suitable for this. Otherwise, fishing will be unprofitable.
Competition in World Ocean
Nowadays, when fishing saury in Russia on a par with other countries, the Russian fishermen lose a lot. They do not have vessels of the needed type or enough equipment. There are up to 1,000 foreign schooners for several dozens of Russian vessels. What kind of competition can there be under these conditions?
There is one more reason for canned saury to become more expensive. It is known that Dobroflot vessels catch and process caught fish immediately on board. Besides, until recently the company took on board raw fish from Japanese fishermen as well. However, the Russian customs authorities decided that in this way, "foreign products were illegally brought into the country". Large-scale inspections began. Law enforcement officers boarded the Vsevolod Sibirtsev floating plant right in the Sea of Okhotsk. After that, there was a showdown in the courts.
If the big companies somehow managed to get out of the situation and continued to maintain their brand, the small producers had to be involved in the very real "smuggling." They put other varieties of fish in cans with the label "saury" or the weight was significantly smaller.
By a Leftover Principle
Now, officials say that saury is not so important for the Russian market because there will be a 15-year cycle of mackerel and sardine catches. That is why fishing companies have to fish saury by a leftover principle. However, it should be said that different equipment is required for pelagic fisheries. Therefore, only a few companies continue to fish saury.
According to Alexander Yefremov, the CEO of Dobroflot, who was cited by Vladivostok News, the Russian catch of saury in 2021 was only 400 tonnes, and foreign companies sell frozen saury for $ 3,000 per tonne. Therefore, as explained by Yefremov, the old price of 60 to 75 rubles per can (approximately $0.94) might come back only on one condition which is an increase in the volume of catches of Russian fishermen. With a catch of 50,000 tonnes in the industry as a whole, the price of canned saury will go down.