May 2, 2022
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Japanese-Russian relations in anticipation of a new approach

There is a need to analyze the entire range of bilateral relations over the thirty years, making adjustments to them

Among the states closest to Russia, Japan was one of the first to join the Western sanctions war in the east, which borders us only on a narrow sea area between the Japanese island of Hokkaido and the Russian Sakhalin Islands, the southern Kuriles, and the Lesser Kuril Ridge. The length of this maritime border is only 194.3 km.

At the same time, the maritime spaces adjacent to this border, and these are the waters of the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of ​​Japan, the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, are of great importance in bilateral cooperation between Russia and Japan. Among them are transport, ship calls to ports, research on marine living resources and their conservation, exploration and production of hydrocarbons, fishing and much more.

However, Japan, embarking on the path of anti-Russian sanctions, marked the beginning of the destruction of mutually beneficial cooperation with our country at sea. There are fears that this may also affect fishing relations. In the old days, the Minister of Fisheries of the Soviet Union, Alexander Akimovich Ishkov, told the Japanese: “You and I have a very good, solid “rope” of cooperation between Japan and the USSR – this is cooperation in the field of marine fisheries.” The Japanese agreed. And indeed, this “channel” of communication between our countries did not break even during the Cold War. However, now it has turned into a thin “thread”. And politicians can pull this “thread” so that it will crack, and neither the fishermen of Japan nor the fishermen of Russia need this.

Relations between our countries in the field of maritime use were generally very balanced. We are talking about shipping, fishing, protecting the marine environment, cooperation in rescuing those in distress at sea, export-import operations with fish and seafood, and much more.

To date, Russia and Japan have created and are operating a whole system of bilateral intergovernmental agreements on cooperation at sea, and above all in the field of fisheries. There are five such agreements – four basic agreements were concluded during the Soviet Union, and the fifth in 1998. And this last agreement just needs to be denounced, it does not meet the national interests of Russia.

Our countries have a mutual interest in joint scientific research on the conservation and rational use of marine living resources in the North Pacific Ocean, off the coasts of Japan and Russia, as well as in the Sea of ​​Japan, the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, and the Bering Sea.

There is an agreement to rescue those in distress. There is an agreement that allows Japanese fishermen to fish for sea kale off the Russian island of Signalny in compliance with all fishing and control rules that exist here.

An agreement was reached to curb the trade in poaching fish and seafood. Export-import operations are developing. In addition, there are cases that require special consideration by the two parties of certain issues that arise. For this, an appropriate commission was created (formerly the Soviet-Japanese Fisheries Commission, now the Russian-Japanese Fisheries Commission).

Russia and Japan regularly hold talks on mutual quotas for catching certain marine resources. As a rule, this topic is pumped up by the Japanese press in such a way that Japan is almost oppressed. However, we are not oppressing anyone, the negotiations are proceeding within the framework of the agreements and agreements reached. Just the other day, negotiations were completed to mutual satisfaction on the Japanese fishermen’s fishing for salmon of Russian origin in the Sea of ​​Japan. One must always keep in mind that neighbors must live in harmony with their neighbors and not apply unilateral sanctions, and even at the behest from across the ocean.

Japanese fishermen are interested in the preservation and development of fishing in the Russian 200-mile zone, as well as Russian fishermen – in the continuation of fishing in the 200-mile zone of Japan. Back in Soviet times, our countries signed an agreement on mutual fishing in each other’s exclusive economic zones. It continues to operate to this day. In recent years, Russian fishermen have been catching about 80-90 thousand tons of fish in the 200-mile zone of Japan, and Japanese fishermen in our zone – about 30 thousand tons.

During the Soviet Union, in 1977-1985, the Japanese side was allocated a quota in our zone of 500-600 thousand tons annually on a reciprocal basis, and the Japanese completely mastered this quota. Then we began to develop these resources with our fleet and the Japanese catch volumes were reduced. Then Japan decided to reduce its dependence on fishing in the 200-mile zone of Russia. However, it is not beneficial for the Japanese to completely stop fishing in our 200-mile zone, as well as for our fishermen in the 200-mile zone of Japan. This is a mutually beneficial, balanced fishery and should be continued.

We allocate quotas to each other almost on an equal footing. However, now the Japanese harvest much less pollock than before, and this was their main fishery in our zone. Now the Japanese fish only for those types of fish that they are allowed to: some pollock, saury, cod, halibut, and various other species. Therefore, their total catch volumes have fallen. As far as I am aware, the Japanese are ready to develop pollock in large quantities, but we cannot deprive our fishermen – Russia itself fully uses these reserves.

One of the main existing agreements between our countries is an agreement that, along with other issues, concerns the conservation of salmon stocks in our Far Eastern rivers. Salmon fishing is carried out both in the Russian zone (we currently do not allocate quotas for the Japanese in our 200-mile zone), and in Japan – our salmon from the rivers of the Far East migrates to the Japanese economic zone. Representatives of Russia and Japan annually hold negotiations to determine the volume of catch of this salmon by Japanese fishermen in the Japanese 200-mile zone. These volumes in recent years have been small – 2.5-3 thousand tons, but play a significant role for local Japanese fishermen.

A more important issue is that under the 1985 agreement (your obedient servant participated in its development, was one of the initiators), the Japanese side undertook not to fish for salmon of Russian origin outside the 200-mile zones of Russia and Japan in the open Pacific Ocean. This is the right step, since we do not conduct such a fishery either. It allows salmon stocks to be saved from the destructive, large-scale Japanese drift-net fishing in the past. This made it possible to restore stocks of salmon that spawn in the rivers of the Russian Far East, which provided us with a catch of up to 350-560 thousand tons annually off our coast.

Here we should also mention the only agreement that falls out of the scheme of mutually beneficial cooperation. We are talking about an agreement in 1998 that allows Japan to fish in Russian territorial waters near the southern Kuril Islands. At the same time, Japan itself does not provide Russia with a similar opportunity for production in its territorial waters.

The 1998 agreement, as has been repeatedly noted, is unbalanced. It must be immediately denounced by informing the Japanese side, as provided for in Article 7 of this agreement.

At the same time, the interests of Russia and Japan are met by mutual cooperation in the conservation and rational use of all marine living resources in the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. It is Russia and Japan that are the leading fishing powers here. This direction is important to strengthen and develop.

We are talking, first of all, about determining the total allowable catch volumes of those joint stocks that are periodically located both in the Russian zone and in the Japanese zone (saury, iwashi, mackerel, limonema, etc.). All this requires joint rational management. This area of ​​cooperation should not be destroyed; on the contrary, it should be expanded. After all, the ocean is one, and the fish does not recognize borders.

However, the sanctions that Japan began to apply against Russia marked the beginning of the destruction of cooperation in a number of areas. This concerns sea use, energy, cooperation in the Arctic. This, finally, concerns human communication, sports, and cultural ties. It got to the point that sanctions were imposed on Russian President V. Putin and other statesmen of our country.

In response, Russia rightly classified Japan as an unfriendly state and announced the termination of negotiations on a far-fetched peace treaty linked to the Kuril Islands. Let’s hope that these negotiations never resume again.

There is a need to analyze the entire range of bilateral relations between Russia and Japan over the past thirty years, making practical adjustments to the relations between the two neighboring countries for the future, taking into account the current situation.

Photo: fishing boat in the Far East, source: Association of Fisheries Enterprises of Primorye

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