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Fish Resources and Commercial Fishery

Author:  V.S. Molotov
Source:  Molotov V.S. The State Management of the Baikal Region Nature Resources / V.S. Molotov, K.Sh. Shagzhiyev; ed. by V.P. Orlov, N.G. Rybalsky. – Moscow, NIA-Priroda Rublishers, 1999. – 244 p. – [Ch. 2.7 Fish Resources and Commercial Fishery]. – pp. 103-114.


Commercial fishery plays a significant role in the economic infrastructure of the Baikal region. The Baikal fishery is based on catching the Baikal omul and ordinary fish, such as the roach, the perch and others. There is also the grayling, the burbot, the pike and the ide in the catch. Commercial fishery of such kinds as the sig, the yellow-finned bullhead or the white Baikal grayling is either closed or limited nowadays. The Baikal sturgeon, the lenok, the taymen, the loach-davatchan are in the category of the rare and endangered fish (the Russian Federation Red Book and the Republic of Buryatia Red Book). The fishes acclimatized in the Baikal basin have also become commercial, such as the Amur sazan, the Amur sheat-fish and the bream.
The fish resources state in the waters of Buryatia can be admitted as satisfactory in general. In the latest decade sharp growth of the valuable species fishery (the sturgeon, the salmon, the sig species) as well as the acclimatizants (the sazan, the bream) and the local ordinary fish (the pike, the ide), has been observed.
Lake Baikal is very important for the commercial fishery both by the amount of catch and by the unique and valuable fish species living in it. one of the principal commercial species is the omul. The quantity and reproductivity of the Baikal omul had sharply reduced by the end of the 60’s because of the Irkutsk hydro power station construction on the Angara river, the environmental situation in the Baikal basin had become worse. To restore the omul resources its commercial fishing was banned in 1969 and a big fish-farm reproducing the omul artificially was organized.
The present-day situation with the Baikal omul resources is determined by the fishery intensity, by the level of the natural and artificial reproduction of all its morphoecological groups (the pelagic, the coastal and the deep water ones).
The ordinary species of the Baikal are the principal commercial species alongside with the omul. The resources of the roach , the yelets and the perch in Lake Baikal system are quite satisfactory.
The pike plays an important role only in the Selenginsk fishery region, it is less important in the Selenginsk and Barguzin districts. The ide had always been caught in the Selenginsk and Severobaikalsk fishery districts, its quantity in the catch of the Barguzin district is insignificant. In the Selenga shallow waters the quantity of the ide and its catch are considerably unstable. The sazan resources are the most stable in the Barguzin fishery region which is connected with the Barguzin river hydrological regimen, very favourable for the species reproduction.
The lake systems of the Baikal region are very various in the limnological characteristics, raw materials resources and in the commercial fishing level.
Ordinary fishes (the roach, the perch, the crucian) as well as the pelyad and the bream are the main commercial species in the Yeravna system of lakes. The lakes have very good prospects for further development of the lake commercial farming  with introduction of new fish species into the polyculture and growing the young for the further fish spreading all over the lakes of Buryatia.
The raw resources of the Gusino-Ubukun system of lakes are mostly concentrated in Gusinoye Lake and represented mostly by the ordinary fish complex.


The commercial fishery districts are the Severobaikalsk, the Barguzin, the Pribaikalsky, the Selenginsk, the Gusinoozersk and the Yeravna ones.
The main fishery base of the Baikal region is the Baikal fishery stock which actively explores the shallow part of the lake with depths down to 100 m (3.8 thousand sq. km) and lake-sor system (1.2 thousand sq. km). The Baikal open part with its big depths is not commercially explored because the main commercial fish species are spread in their specific way all over the Baikal area and they are not available in low concentrations.
The ordinary fish is caught in the lake-sor system of the Baikal. The main places are the Proval gulf (22 thousand hectares), the Posolsky sor (3.5 thousand hectares), the Istok sor (2.5 thousand hectares) as well as a number of lakes and channels in the Selenga river delta; in Pribaikalye (the Baikal land) it is Kotokel Lake (6.83 thousand hectares); in the Barguzin fishery area it is Arangatui Lake (5.42 thousand hectares) shallow parts of the Chivyrkui and Barguzin gulfs, a number of lakes in the Barguzin river basin; in the Severobasikalsk fishery area they are the Severobaikalsk sor (2.3 thousand hectares) and small lakes in the Upper Angara and the Kichera.


Fishery is done by the “The Baikal Fishery” association, by the Irkutsk region fisheries association and fish farms of the Baikal Fisheries Union (on the present day they are being disbanded). Nowadays these companies catch up to 80% of the registered amount of the caught fish. However, with commercial fishery licensing introduced in 1992, such minor fishermen as different ownership organizations  play a bigger role.
The Baikal omul. The average age of the pelagic omul in the catch is 7.56, of the coastal one – 6.03 which corresponds with the ichthyomass culmination of these morphological groups (the pelagic one is 6+, the coastal one is 5+). The bottom-dwelling omul is only an additional catch together with other morphoecological groups because of its specific spreading and catch restriction in the period of putting on weight. The average age of the caught bottom-dwelling omul is within 9.0-11.0.
The Baikal sig. There have not been any sharp changes in the sig resources in the Chivyrkui gulf and the Malomorsky fishery district. It is caught only as additional catch by the omul fishing equipment and is also the object of amateur fishery.
The ordinary fish. The resources of the ordinary fish (the roach, the yelets, the perch) have reduced in the lake-sor Baikal system. The decrease is influenced by citizens’ consumer fishing in shallow waters.
The roach, the yelets. The quantity and biomass of the roach and the yelets, as well as the factual catch amount, show that their resources  in the most important Baikal fishing areas are sufficient. Since 1993 a considerable decrease of catch in the Selenginsk shallow waters and in North Baikal has been observed, and in the Chivyrkuisky gulf and the North Baikal the catch has been increased which is connected with the changed character and fishing intensity in separate Lake Baikal fishing areas, including those with the conditions of fishing as well as with processing  and selling possibilities.
The perch. In recent years stable decrease of the omul catch has been observed in all the fishing areas. The main perch catch is in the Barguzin (the Chivyrkuisky gulf) and the Selenginsk economic areas (up to 80-90%).
The burbot. Specialized fishing is only in the North Baikal, with ice fishing ordinary nets and burbot traps. The resources condition is satisfactory.
The ide. It is caught in the Selenginsk and the Severobaikalsk fishing areas. The ide resources in the Baikal are not big but rather stable. In the Selenga shallow waters the quantity of the ide and its fishing  are very unstable. Besides, in that region the ide is especially often caught by individual fishermen, and there is much poaching, especially in the egg-laying migrations period from May 6 to 10. Nowadays the ide resources in the Selenga shallow waters are considerably reduced  because its juveniles do not get out of the general catch, from the nets.
The sazan. The sazan resources are the most stable in the Barguzin fishing area which is connected with the Barguzin river hydrological regimen peculiarities, favourable enough for that species reproduction.
The pike is of minor importance in the Baikal fishing. The fishing concerns all the age groups. It comes across in every catch as an addition to the mass fish species. Its quantity is different every year and depends on the spawning conditions. The pike resources are considerably determined by the habitat and food availability. The traditional places where pikes put on weight are overgrown with the Canadian elodea. In the early 90’s the pike quantity growth was influenced by the growth of the available food object, the rotan. In recent years the quantity of the rotan has gone down and the ordinary fish resources, the roach, the yelets and the juvenile fish have gone down, too.
The Baikal seal (nerpa). The Baikal seal is a fresh water seal, an endemic of the lake. It a higher animal among other Baikal animals. It is the final link in the trophic chain of the lake. It is of great interest as a scientific research object and a valuable hunting object playing a significant economic role. All these determine its value and need combination of interests of its economic utilization and protection.
The  nerpa living conditions have become better since 1990’s (in comparison with the pervious period of the 1980’s). The average population age of the Baikal seal has grown from 7.2 (1988-1990) to 8.8 (1991-1998) which shows that senior age animals prevail in the population.
Besides the commercial hunting there are also losses because of poaching, the seals caught in fishing nets, losses through hunters, ships crews, drivers and other people connected with hunting (the more organizations are involved in hunting, and there are about 30-40% of them now, the greater are the losses), the wounded animals killing.
Artificial Reproduction of Fish Resources. Artificial reproduction of fish resources in the Baikal region is done as follows: improving biotechnology of the sig fish and the grayling spawn collecting and incubation, growing the juvenile fishes to the vital stages and spreading the fish breeding product in the favourable places of the Baikal.
Fish farms of the East Siberia fish centre are engaged in the reproduction of the Baikal omul and other valuable species in the Baikal basin: the Bolsherechensky fish farm (launched in 1933, reconstructed capacity is 1.25 milliard grains of roe), the Selenginsky omul and sturgeon farm (launched in 1979, the capacity is 1.5 milliard grains of the omul roe and 2.0 million grains of the Baikal sturgeon roe) and the Barguzinsky fish farm (launched in 1979, the capacity is 1.0 milliard grains of roe).
In the Irkutsk region there is the Burduguzsky fish farm (launched in 1968, the capacity is 100 million grains of the omul roe) for settling the omul in the Irkutsk water reservoir, and the Belsky fish farming department of the Irkutsk fish farm on the Belaya river (launched in 1964, the capacity is 150 million grains of roe) for reproducing the sig fish acclimatized in the Angara cascade water reservoirs.
The spawn and the juveniles of the Baikal omul are introduced into many lakes and reservoirs of Russia, as well as Mongolia, China and Japan, in some of them the omul has acclimatized (Lake Khubsugul in Mongolia, the Irkutsk, the Bratsk and the Krasnoyarsk water reservoirs, the lakes of Karelia).
To use the Baikal omul resources in the rational way it is necessary to regulate its reproduction potential, that is: reasonable combination of the natural and artificial reproduction for both preserving the genofond of the unique Baikal omul populations and for the Baikal commercial fishing development.
Taking into consideration the situation with the Baikal commercial fishing it is necessary to solve a number of problems both on the federal and on the territorial level. First of all it is necessary to work out the legislation acts which would allow to improve the state fish resources control system and determine the activity of the fish resources consumers. It is very important to solve the problems of financing the monitoring and valuable fish reproducing work on the federal water territories. On the territorial level (the Republic of Buryatia, the Irkutsk region) it is necessary to work out the programme of Lake Baikal commercial fishing and to touch upon the problems of organizing and legal distribution of the limits, monitoring the fishing intensity and the fishing operative management in accordance with the fish populations biological condition and of creating the favourable situation for the companies engaged in the fish resources reproduction. 

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