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Russia will launch a crackdown on illegal exports
Russia will launch a crackdown on illegal exports of crab and other bio-resources to Pacific Rim countries from the beginning of 2008, the State Fisheries Committee announced on Thursday.

Russia banned the export of live crab in May, but large volumes continue to be smuggled out of the country, primarily to Japan and South Korea.

"The fisheries committee, together with Russia's Foreign Ministry, the Federal Security Service and other law enforcement agencies will terminate this criminal business, which is blossoming in countries of the Asia-Pacific region," Fisheries Committee chief spokesman Alexander Savelyev told journalists in Seoul.

The official attended a meeting of the Russian-Korean commission for the fishing industry in the South Korean capital.

The annual quota for crab-catching in Russian waters is 50,000-55,000 metric tons. However, Savelyev said that according to expert estimates, up to 150,000 tons are caught each year in the Okhotsk Sea and Bering Strait, putting crab populations under threat.

An illegal system has been established in recent years for the trading of fish supplied by Russian fishermen, Savelyev said.

He said it would be more beneficial for Japanese and South Korean businessmen to invest in fishing enterprises on Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East than to buy illegal produce at higher prices.

Savelyev also said that Russia will increase the quota for Pacific saury in its exclusive economic zone for South Korean fishing boats by 5,000 tons to 36,600 tons from 2008. South Korea will pay $8.8 million for the fishing rights.

The head of the Russia's Fisheries Committee, Andrei Krainy, said a Russian fish exchange will be launched on the basis of the European-Asian Exchange in 2009. The exchange will allow direct buying and selling of large fish batches without intermediaries. The committee expects the move will enable a 20-40% reduction in prices of fish products.


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