Russia to open seafood-production facilities in prisons

Published on
September 17, 2021
A gate to a Russian prison.

The Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries and the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia have signed an agreement to use inmates in the national prison system for seafood production.

The food-production program will also offer prisoners more seafood options, better meeting the nutrient needs of those behind bars, according to the two agencies.

The agreement has two main areas for cooperation: the establishment of production facilities and the formation of strategic food reserves at prisons to ensure the availability of seafood for inmates. The document doesn’t specify what kind of facilities, or what kind of production will be performed at the prisons.

“Involvement of prisoners in paid labor is an important task of the penitentiary system and civil society. Work allows for prisoners not only to pay fines to their victims but also obtain professional skills and socialize,” the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries said in a statement.

The initiative was put in place following a move by Chinese authorities in late 2020 to impose restrictions on seafood imports from Russia, ostensibly to protect the country from products infected with COVID-19. The resulting drop in trade forced Russia's seafood industry to find new destinations for its products.

Dual programs pushing for the opening of new markets abroad and to increase domestic consumption haven’t been enough to recuperate the sales volumes previously sent to China – a country that accounted for 61 percent of the country’s exports in 2019. In response, Russia's parliament began debating whether to send excess fish to state institutions earlier this year.

Russia runs nearly 900 prisons of different kinds, with approximately 472,000 prisoners. In 2017, a new regulation for feeding prisoners was adopted in the country. They now have a right to a diversified menu filled with fresh and nutrient-rich dishes, with fish one of the mandatory components of the menu. The regulation lists pollock, navaga, halibut, and cod as species that are regularly served in Russia's prisons.

Photo courtesy of Jonas Petrovas/Shutterstock

Reporting from Saint Petersburg, Russia

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