Amateur fishing pressure on fish stocks of the Lower Dniester

Posted on 18.12.2020

Recently, the issue of illegal fishing in the lower reaches of the Dniester River, including valuable industrial species, has become extremely widespread. The construction of dams, an insufficient number of compensatory fish stocking and land reclamation works also aggravate the situation. In order to have a more comprehensive influence on uninformed amateur fishermen, the International Association of River Keepers Eco-TIRAS, with the support of the GEF project “Enabling transboundary co-operation and integrated water resources management in the Dniester River Basin”, prepared an assessment of the pressure of amateur fishing on the fish resources of the Lower Dniester. The main goal of this assessment is not only to raise fishermen’s awareness about the rules of recreational/amateur fishing, but also to make an impact in the area of ​​distribution of fishing gear used for poaching (including sales outlets).

Moldovan and Ukrainian ichthyologists have studied the state of fish stocks in the transboundary area between the Dubossary Hydroelectric Power Station and the Dniester estuary.

According to the experts, during the year the amateur fishermen catch about 545 tons in total annually. A comparative analysis of the total commercial catch in the unified system of the Lower Dniester together with the estuary demonstrated that the amateur catch makes up about 25% of the harvested fish resources. In the Moldovan part of the Dniester River, nearly 180 tons (33%) are caught, and in the Ukrainian part – 365 tons (67%).

Key findings

  • The main fish species in terms of numbers found in the catch during the year were gobies, roach, common bleak, and carp; in the lower part of the Lower Dniester, asp, sander, bream, common carp, and flier also appeared in the catches. However, carp, roach, common carp, bream, gobies, silver bream and common bleak continued to be the dominant species.
  • The total catch of amateur fishermen per day in the Lower Dniester is mostly within the norms, but during migration periods it can significantly exceed the normal range, taking into account that there is practically no effective control over the amount of fish caught per person.
  • In many parts of the Lower Dniester, poachers are systematically observed; they catch fish with nets, trotline, and using spinning with heavy damaging hooks. The greatest damage to the fish resources of the Dniester River is caused by the poaching fishing gear. Such prohibited methods and fishing gear are often used under the disguise of “amateur” fishing, especially in places where fish are concentrated in high density (using  trotlines with multiple hooks, screens, etc.). In some coastal villages, poaching with the use of nets, trotlines, etc. is an important part of the occupation of local residents.
  • The catch of significant volumes of fish by amateur fishermen in the Lower Dniester, including the broodstock of the main commercial species (carp, sander, roach, bream, catfish, asp, etc.), is not compensated for by fish stocking and reclamation works, despite the fact that significant areas where spawning used to occur were lost due to the embankment of the river. In the lower reaches of the Dniester, amateur fishermen virtually never apply the principle of “catch and release”. For the most part, amateur fishermen exceed the permitted number of fishing gear, hooks, and fish catch volumes during the ban period.

Recommendations

  • Creation of an institute of public fish inspectors.
  • Extension of the ban on importing the polymeric monofilament fishing nets.
  • Introducing changes and additions to the Contravention Code.
  • Experimental introduction of amateur fishing permits (for a day, for a month, for a year) in Ukraine.
  • Reduction of fees for amateur fishing for low-income groups of the population of the Republic of Moldova.
  • Implementation of mandatory monitoring of the amateur fishing pressure on fish resources.
  • Consideration of a possibility of banning amateur fishing on the territory of the Nature Reserve Fund entities during the spawning period.

To address the situation with illegal fishing and to form a generation of responsible fishermen, producers and owners of sales networks, experts also recommend developing a large-scale information campaign on the methods of obtaining fishing permits, protected fish species, and the rules of recreational fishing, including prohibited periods.

The study was carried out within the framework of the demonstration project “Improving knowledge and improving bilateral cooperation on fish in the Lower Dniester”. The full version of the findings and recommendations of the study is available in the Report “Assessment of the impact of recreational fishing on fish stocks in the Lower Dniester” (in Russian).

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels