Two “quiet” monthsThoroughly elaborated inspectors’ activities, interaction with other state agencies as well as assistance provided by ordinary citizens allowed us to avoid poaching spate at Belarusian water bodies at the time of spawning.
In spring the number of violations of the Regulations on fishery management and fishing as rule increases, spawning fish loses caution and poachers try to use it to their advantage. That is why in April-May when a number of fishing restrictions are active, state inspectors devote special attention to the situation at rivers, lakes and other water bodies of the country, ensuring compliance with the environmental legislation.
We asked the Chief of the State Inspectorate on Wildlife Protection under the President of the Republic of Belarus Mikhail ARESHKO to tell us about the peculiarities of this season, results of work conducted during this important period, problems and plans for the future.
— Mikhail Adamovich, what was the situation with spring spawning this season? How did Inspectorate organize work of its structural departments?
— At the time of spawning when fishing restrictions were active, the main efforts of the Central office and structural departments were concentrated on implementation of independent and joint inspections where representatives of law-enforcement and environmental agencies and other state bodies were involved.
The control over the observation of the environmental legislation was carried out taking into account the peculiarities of the regions and situation as well as weather conditions. Intent control was imposed on the most valuable spawning grounds of the main fish species.
Simultaneously relevant explanatory work was conducted: our representatives regularly visited different enterprises and addressed their staff and workforce, using mass media raised public awareness on the most significant issues concerning environmental protection legislation including explanations of the provisions of the Regulations on fishery management and fishing which became a constraining factor preventing mass poaching.
All these measures were aimed at giving fish the possibility to quietly spawn and at warning citizens against attempts to catch fish illegally as fines and sums to be paid for inflicted damage are currently pretty big.
— Were plans implemented? How criminogenic was the situation at water bodies?
— Our employees coped with the set tasks. In April-May more than 2 thousand raids were conducted during which more than 3 thousand violations of the environment legislation were detected including 2340 – related to fishing.
As compared with the corresponding period of the previous year, the total number of violations of Regulations on fishery management and fishing decreased by 9 %. 3,7 thousand nets with a total length of 150 kilometers as well as 8 electrical rods, 935 other fishing gear items and over 12,8 tons of illegally caught fish – it is thrice more than over the same period of the previous year – were seized.
Moreover, 67 pond fish theft attempts were prevented, as a result 270 kilograms of the stolen fish were returned to fish breeding farms. All this allowed us to “disarm” poachers and protect Belarusian water bodies from poaching spate.
— Are there significant changes in the pattern of detected violations as compared with the same period of the previous year?
— The analysis shows that the number of insignificant violations has been reduced. The officials of the State Inspectorate were aimed at restraining grave or masked violations of the environmental legislation and crimes committed by organized groups. That is why share of crimes with elements of criminal offences and crimes with significant damage to nature increased. Thus, in April-May the number of cases we handed to investigation authorities was 44% higher, than over the same period of the previous year. At present 150 criminal cases were already opened while last year there were 89 cases.
As compared with the same period of 2008 the amount of fines imposed grew from 347 million to 456 million rubles.
— How did you cooperate with other state agencies?
— On the spawning eve big organizing work was conducted. Under the initiative of inspectorates at the region and district executive committees level, coordination meetings were held with the participation of representatives of environmental, law-enforcement and other concerned state agencies on issues related to protection of fisheries reserves at the time of fishing restrictions. At these meetings legal entities were assigned responsible for water bodies protection.
A businesslike talk was held with the renters of fisheries concerning protection and management of fish reserves. This provided an impetus for many of them to take effective measures aimed at protection of rented water bodies. The prime example is the case solved by the guards of the National park “Narochanski”. They prevented eel fishing with prohibited method – through a connection to a power line. The damaged caused to nature as a result of such fishing was estimated at 200 million rubles. The criminal case was opened.
Wildlife Protection Inspectorates together with Inspectorates on natural resources and wildlife protection, departments of agriculture and food did a lot to put in order banks and water protection areas of water bodies in order to prevent pollution and exclude mass fish kill. Special commissions inspected agricultural facilities which may be regarded as sources of pollution for water bodies. Instructions were issued for elimination of detected violations. Mass pollution of water bodies was not registered during spring spawning, however several serious local pollution incidents did take place – in particular, at the rivers Svisloch and Oshmyanka.
The Svisloch pollution was detected on May, 8th. Officers of the Minsk Region Inspectorate arrived to the scene. A commission was established to ascertain sources of pollution and fish kill, water samples were taken. Now the investigation of the unpleasant incident is in its active stage.
At the end of May inspectors of the Smorgon Inter-District Inspectorate registered fish kill in the river Oshmyanka of the Oshmyani district. There were rare species from the Red list of endangered species of Belarus among dead fish: 32 brook trout and 6 graylings. In connection with the fish kill in the river Oshmyanka caused by raw sewage spilled, as suspected, by the Oshmyani enterprise for housing and utilities, the materials were handed to the Prosecutor’s office of the Oshmyani district for legal evaluation. The Smorgon Inter-District Inspectorate initiated administrative proceedings against the Oshmyani enterprise for housing and utilities. According to preliminary data the volume of the damage caused to fish resources is 327 million rubles.
— It is well-known that of all banned gear nets are most wide-spread in recreational fishing and they, according to fishermen, inflict the greatest damage. How was work conducted to suppress nets delivery channels to poachers?
— To prevent sale of banned fishing gear made of netting materials and trade of illegally caught lake and river fish and wild plants, in particular, wild leek, which is included in the Red list endangered species of Belarus, special efforts were applied by our officers together with the officials of the police and tax authorities. Checks at market places, non-authorized trade outlets, and fish selling places along roads were conducted with their participation.
The officials of the Quick Response Directorate of the State Inspectorate together with the representatives of the tax and levies inspectorate of the Central district of the Minsk city established the fact of illegal trade in netting materials during implementation of measures aimed at preventing sale of fishing nets and net materials at the market place ООО (LLC) “Zhdanovichi”. They were sold by a citizen who used for this a trade place of a sole entrepreneur. There were 30 nets in his car. Administrative proceedings were initiated against him.
The officials of the Gomel, Brest and Mogilyov regional inspectorates prevented nine cases of illegal trade of lake and river fish at unauthorized places. Officials of the Minsk Region Inspectorate registered 17 cases of wild leak trade. Administrative penalties were imposed on guilty persons. In the near future for the purpose of prevention of illegal import of netting fishing gear into the territory of our country a closer cooperation will be set up with Customs and border guard agencies.
— What kind of help did you receive from local population in establishing a proper order at water bodies of our country?
— Just like in the previous years at this crucial period local population was actively involved in the struggle against poaching. People understand that without their participation it is not possible to cope with poaching that is why when they detected such facts they immediately called the hot line phone numbers of our structural departments or left information on the Internet site of the State Inspectorate. Officials of local inspectorates promptly responded to this information: it was checked and poaching forays were prevented. During April-May the hotline phone received over 800 messages with information about possible violations of the environmental legislation. Following their investigation 319 violations were detected.
More than a dozen of violations inflicting large and especially large environmental damage were prevented owing to people’s involvement. For example, in May at the river of Tsna in the Borisov district citizens helped to prevent electrical rod fishing by a group of persons. That group caused environmental damage on an especially large scale - over 200 million rubles. The Borisov District Office of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs opened a criminal case pursuant to Part 4, Article 281 of the Criminal code of the Republic of Belarus.
A significant share of poaching nets and their owners are also detected through the information provided by citizens, who care about nature.