The Fisheries in Norwegian and Russian Waters, 1850 – 2010
The article explores the connection between Russia and the marine environment during the seventeenth century prior to the modernizing reforms of Peter the Great. Drawing from archival sources, it traces the links binding local and regional actors (e.g. state officials, local fishermen, monastic authorities, etc.) to an array of maritime resources and actors. Emphasis is placed on analysing the routine practices associated with natural resource use evident at this time in order to reveal a relatively complex management system underpinning Russia's exploitation of the maritime environment.
The paper describes changing patterns of commercial fish catch in the downstream part of the Neva River and the eastern Gulf of Finland and analyzes drivers of these changes for the period 1929-1995. We summarize catch data on 20 species and species groups of fishes and lamprey, as well as available abiotic data (salinity, temperature and water transparency). Water transparency gradually decreased during the 20th century being inseparable from a number of non-quantified anthropogenic factors, thus it can be used as an integral index of anthropogenic loading on the ecosystem. Because fisheries statistics were not published regularly, catch data were extracted from archives and various publications. Fishing locations, gear and target species changed over time in relation to each other, reflecting technological developments in fisheries, commercial demands for fishery products and the abundance of fish populations. Until the 18-19th centuries, fisheries took place mostly in rivers where weirs and set nets targeted sturgeon, salmon and whitefish. By the end of the 19th century, herring and smelt were the main targets of fixed nets in coastal areas. A century later, the main commercial species, herring, was harvested with pelagic trawls operating offshore in the Gulf. This evolution in fisheries, along with other anthropogenic activities, caused severe declines in diadromous species. Spawning migrations that make them easy to catch, and their high market value, make diadromous fish more vulnerable than other groups. Canonical correspondence analysis showed that catches of most diadromous species decreased with increasing transparency, which may reflect their response to anthropogenic pressure. Marine and freshwater fish suffered from anthropogenic pressure, but to a lesser extent probably because of a wider distribution and dispersal, and more capital-intensive fishing methods. Catches of marine species, except herring, significantly increased in the 1970-1980s when salinity was comparatively high. We found no correlation of fish catches with temperature.
The paper describes and analyzes original data, extracted from historical documents and scientific surveys, related to Russian fisheries in the southeastern part of the Gulf of Finland and its inflowing rivers during the 15- early 20th centuries. The data allow tracing key trends in fisheries development and in the abundance of major commercial species. In particular, results showed that, over time, the main fishing areas moved from the middle part of rivers downstream towards and onto the coastal sea. Changes in fishing patterns were closely interrelated with changes in the abundance of exploited fish. Anadromous species, such as Atlantic sturgeon, Atlantic salmon, brown trout, whitefish, vimba bream, smelt, lamprey, and catadromous eel were the most important commercial fish in the area because they were abundant, had high commercial value and were easily available for fishing in rivers. Due to intensive exploitation and other human-induced factors, populations of most of these species had declined notably by the early 20th century and have now lost commercial significance. The last sturgeon was caught in 1996, and todayonly smelt and lamprey support small commercial fisheries. According to historical sourcescatches of freshwater species such as roach, ide, pike, perch, ruffe and burbot regularly occurred, in some areas exceeding half of the total catch, but they were not as important as migrating fish and no clear trends in abundance are apparent. Of documented marine catch, Baltic herring appeared in the 16th century, but did not become commerciallysignificant until the 19th century. From then until now herring have been the dominant catch.