Russia’s salmon harvest has plunged by 20 percent from last year, according to new figures from the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency.

The figures were released in English late last month by the US Department of Agriculture’s foreign agriculture service, which analyzes industry trends.

According to the report, the total Russian salmon harvest is expected to reach 360,000 metric tons this year, about 20 percent lower than 2012’s catch and 28 percent lower than 2011’s catch. Final figures will not be available until the end of the year; Russian salmon fishermen work until the rivers freeze.

In comparison, this year’s Alaska salmon harvest of 1.049 billion pounds is 476,138 metric tons. That figure is up 59 percent from 2012.

Russia typically surpasses Alaska in Pacific salmon production, but Russia’s inability to crack down on illegal fishing has starved its legal fisheries.

In 2009, a paper in the Journal of Marine Science analyzed market activity in Asia and estimated that Russian sockeye salmon catches were 60 to 90 percent higher than reported.

Illegal catches of pink, silver and chum salmon are thought to be on par or smaller than illegal sockeye catches.

As in Alaska, pink salmon make up the majority of Russia’s salmon harvest. The Russian fisheries agency estimates a total catch of 237,000 metric tons of pink salmon, 78,000 metric tons of chums, and 51,000 metric tons of sockeye.

Sakhalin Island, north of Japan, is Russia’s largest legal salmon-producing area, generating 53 percent of the Pacific salmon harvest. Kamchatka, at the end of the Aleutian chain, is No. 2 with 37 percent of the harvest.

The USDA reports that salmon prices are on the rise in Russia, even as the country has balanced falling harvests with rising imports of Atlantic salmon from Norway.

Russia is also encouraging salmon aquaculture with fish farms in European Russia.

A new aquaculture law will become effective in January, and aquaculture firm Russian Sea has pledged to produce 30,000 metric tons of salmon per year by 2018.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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