Crackdown underway on salmon-roe trafficking in Russia

A container of salmon roe.

The regional government of Kamchatka, Russia has launched an anti-poaching campaign and a crackdown on counterfeit and smuggled salmon roe.

In mid-January, the Investigative Committee of Russia arrested a transport policewoman over allegations she helped illegal salmon-roe traders make it through control zones at Elizovo Airport in Kamchatka Krai. After allegedly taking bribes from two men, the policewoman ensured their luggage was not inspected at the airport, and in the event of inspections she helped return suspicious goods to the smugglers.

Then in early February, the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested three men in the town of Elizovo allegedly involved in illegally sourcing salmon roe in order to transport and sell it. Roughly 3,500 metric tons (MT) of the product was purportedly found at the smuggler’s homes, worth RUB 12 million (USD 157,330, EUR 137,530). 

The increased activity by law enforcement is a sign of the authorities' desire to confront the worsening problem of salmon-roe trafficking, which they said is driven by the record-high prices recorded recentlyTraditionally, Kamchatka accounts for more than half of Russia’s salmon harvest, with humpback salmon dominating the catch. As a result, the region produces more than half of the salmon roe consumed in Russia. Salmon roe is considered a delicacy that is popular for celebratory occasions.

Most of the illegal volumes of salmon roe travels through the luggage of air travelers flying from Kamchatka to other regions of the country.

In 2021, according to Kamchatka Minister of Fisheries Andrey Zdetovetskiy, 800 MT was transported from the region in air luggage, equal to 15,000 MT of salmon worth RUB 3 billion (USD 39.4 million, EUR 34.4 million). The increase in air traffic can be seen in luggage statistics – one passenger registered 77 items of luggage at 50 kilograms each, thus totaling 1,800 kilograms, all for the same flight, Zdetovetskiy told media.

The problem has been around for years, but no serious measures had been implemented to stop it until the region's new governor, Vladimir Solodov, took office in 2020.

In late 2021, Kamchatka’s authorities rolled out a plan to stop the illegal trafficking of salmon roe. Central to the plan is the imposition of a limit on the weight of salmon roe that a passenger can transport without veterinary certificates confirming that the product was sourced legally.

Solodov said the idea of a limit was voiced at a session of the National Security Council and has received approval from Russian President Vladimir Putin.   

Photo courtesy of locrifa/Shutterstock


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