Facing ongoing suspension, Russia threatens permanent withdrawal from ICES

Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries Head Ilya Shestakov.

Russia is threatening to leave the international Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) if its suspension is not lifted.

ICES temporarily banned Russian delegates from participating in the organization’s activities in April 2022 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At the time, the organization said it had instructed its scientists and representatives “to either boycott or avoid engagement in activities where representatives of the Russian Federation are present.”

Now over a year into its suspension, Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries Head Ilya Shestakov has reportedly threatened to permanently withdraw from the organization, according to Interfax.

Shestakov, speaking at a conference on bioresources and fisheries in the Arctic held in Arkhangelsk, Russia, said ICES previously helped regulate fishing in the North Atlantic. However, countries with no stake in the North Atlantic or the Arctic are dictating whether Russia can be a member of the organization, he claimed. 

"But now we see that the Baltic countries, which do not have access to the North Atlantic, and who do not talk about the Arctic at all, as well as many other E.U. countries, have deprived the Russian Federation membership in this scientific organization,” he said. “We believe that working in this organization in the future with this approach does not make any sense."

Russia is a co-founder of ICES, and at the time of its suspension, Russia's Federal Agency for Fisheries said it would its withhold sharing its scientific data with global fisheries community. Russia is in the process of expanding its fleet of scientific vessels and conducts a wide range of fisheries research across its vast exclusive economic zone and beyond.

Shestakov warned ICES that “if they do not restore our full membership, then we will leave this pseudo-scientific organization."

"In recent years, this organization has turned into something that has become simply politically engaged and has begun to offer certain regulatory mechanisms which are not in the general interest, but in the interests of individual countries that are engaged in fishing and are present in this region," he said. "Therefore, of course, the Russian Federation will not work with an organization like this one and discuss the issues of a region as important as the Arctic."

Shestakov said Russia remains a member of many fisheries organizations, and that the country recently signed agreements with 10 countries to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. He suggested that Russia would find better cooperation with China on fisheries science if it decides to leave ICES.

"We will find opportunities and cooperate with states who want to sign agreements in the field of scientific research," he said.    

Photo courtesy of the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries


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