Japan, Russia start salmon, trout fishing talks amid Ukraine crisis

© Kyodo News

Japan and Russia started negotiations Monday over Tokyo's fishing quota of salmon and trout spawned in Russian rivers, a move seen as controversial because Tokyo has to pay a fishery rights fee to Moscow despite the country being hit by international sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

It is not known whether the two governments can strike a deal in the virtual talks as Russia opposes the sanctions imposed by Japan, the United States, Europe and other parties.

Tokyo and Moscow will decide the fee and the quota for Japanese vessels to fish in Japan's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, according to Japanese Fisheries Agency officials.

Japan pays a "cooperation fee" to Russia as salmon and trout, according to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, belong to the country in which they were spawned.

The two sides hold talks over the quota every spring, as the fishing season in Japan's EEZ is said to peak around April and May.

But this time, the deadline for the negotiations is undecided, the agency officials said, in reflection of the strained bilateral ties over the crisis in Ukraine.

The Japanese government has judged it will maintain its fishing rights with Russia through negotiations despite Tokyo's imposition of sanctions, according to the officials.

Fishermen in Hokkaido, northern Japan, will not be able to conduct operations until the quota talks are concluded.

Japan aims to gain the understanding of the United States and other Western countries by prioritizing talks for fisheries in Japanese waters.

Japan and Russia have yet to decide on the negotiation schedule for Japanese vessels to fish in Russian waters.

Last year, the two sides agreed on a quota of 2,050 tons and a fee of between 260 million yen ($2 million) and 300 million yen, depending on the actual catch.

In Hokkaido, no fishing has been allowed from April 10, the date when the ban on net fishing for salmon and trout is usually lifted.

Shigeto Hinuma, 71, owner of a fish shop in Nemuro, eastern Hokkaido, expressed hope that the two countries will somehow settle the negotiations.

"If we do not get the salmon, which is our spring tradition, it will have a considerable impact on our sales," said Hinuma, whose shop purchases 80 to 100 salmon a day from the Japan-Russia arrangement every year.