English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов - живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World - Living Arctic) No. 15, 2004

About poaching and sustainable nature use

D. Berezhkov, RAIPON Vice-president

In April this year a report and election conference of the Kamchatkan Regional Association of Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of the North was held. I was elected the Association’s President and was therefore trusted with the destiny of the organization uniting thousands of representatives of Kamchatka ’s indigenous population.

As of now, the struggle for the right of indigenous peoples to use resources, to be engaged in traditional nature use, to make use of those methods of economic activity which have been successfully implemented by their predecessors, while at the same time preserving the environment, is one of my major objectives. A favorable ecological situation depends today on several factors, including the so-called sustainable methods of man’s economic activity. It has been recognized the world over that basically the preservation of environment and biodiversity in territories suffering impacts by human activities does not depend on the number of fines exacted for various ecological violations. The state of nature on these territories depends on technologies and the methods of human economic activity. When this activity has a long-term perspective, especially in the development of such economic branches as fishing, hunting, sea mammal hunting, gathering – those assuming the extraction of bioresources from the environment – and in cases where reasonable limitation is observed while doing so for a concrete forest sector, a concrete river, then this kind of nature use in fact becomes sustainable and can preserve nature in these sectors no less but often more efficiently than any measures of protective nature.

Indigenous peoples, having succeeded for thousands of years in preserving nature on the territories of their habitation in its primordial condition, have proved in reality that traditional nature use is one of the most successful methods of economic activity invented by mankind. The industrial methods of fishing, timber cutting and other types of modern economic activity replacing the traditional ones have substantially reduced and in many areas undermined the potential of the extracted resources. The principle of extraction of as much as possible from nature has become more and more dangerous. First of all, for man. With a reasonable approach, bioresources can be used as long as one wishes, but conditions are required for its organization. Today, the reform of fishing industry is well underway. Feverish symptoms of this phenomenon can easily be seen from the clashes in the mass media between the region’s governor and the procurator’s office. What is far more remorseful – we will feel them on our back next winter when after the battles of the election campaign, the new governor will find himself face to face with the necessity of fulfilling the budget, left without the taxes from the fishing enterprises which stayed idle last winter. What is still more distressing – the same muddle seems to be in the offing with the 2004 salmon fishing season.

The basic idea of the reformers is sometimes overlooked behind the smoke of battles – to fix the resources with definite users for a long term. Though a 5-year period is mentioned, the resources will be fixed with their users for a long period indeed if one bears in mind that further distribution will be carried out on the basis of enterprise history. Against the background of cessation of fishing auctions, this step of the government looks like it understands the fact that sustainability and accompanying long-term extraction of profits from the use of bioresources is more important than the receipt of short-term profits, no matter how large. Since the notion of importance in this case is rather moral than anything else, it is not only more significant but more profitable for the state. I am not going to repeat myself, since a lot has been said today about this, but when the resources are fixed for (legally assured to) economic subjects for a long term, enterprises can plan their activity with greater certainty, and involve resources for the expansion and modernization of production. This kind of confidence in the future used to be the basis for the sustainability of a traditional way of life and traditional types of economic activity of indigenous peoples.

Today we come up against the fact that indigenous peoples in the Kamchatkan Region, with the governor’s hand in the matter, have found themselves completely excommunicated from the resource basis on which their economy used to be traditionally built. Disregarding the meager permitted limits for bioresources set aside for feeding the aborigines and annually changing them arbitrarily, the Northern indigenous peoples of Kamchatka have no chance of being engaged in traditional economic activity today. The beginning of this logical chain predetermines its continuation: no sectors – no limits, no limits – no chance of attracting credits, no credits – no chance of developing production, perspectives get lost – chances to support traditional culture are lost. At the same time, indigenous peoples remain to be recognized worldwide as leaders in the construction of sustainable models of nature use.

We have heard a lot about the successful experience of Alaskan aborigines, indians in Canada , Saami in Scandinavia , about the fact that reindeer breeding and fishing can be a profitable business. Many believe that it is possible abroad only, where legislation is different and socio-economic conditions are not like ours. Recently, I had a chance to visit the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Once there, I was lucky to meet with representatives of indigenous peoples’ communities who managed to organize profitable traditional production, reindeer breeding and fishing while observing the principle of sustainability. With the organization of deep processing, including the final production outcome, fishing became profitable with minimal permitted limits. Skeptical people would readily jump at the conclusion that with the profits received by Yamal from gas production it was easy to organize, while it is out of the question in our case. It is true that to organize such mini-production units, both an initial financial incentive and the actual provision of a resource basis are required. One should agree with the fact that, unlike the Yamal budget, our meager Kamchatkan budget can hardly give such an incentive to traditional economic structures of indigenous peoples. However, the volume of fishing resources in the Kamchatkan Region and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug cannot be compared either. Our capacity is tens of times higher. Hence, it is easier to provide some part of these resources.

One should also take into account the fact that, unlike in Yamal, our fishing is the main source of the region’s income. That is why the fight for the right to fish is so fierce. However, with regard to the communities of indigenous peoples, the question on the agenda is not many thousands of tons at all. Far smaller volumes become economically rational with a community-based (or artel-based work association) method of production when members of one tribe, family, or artel are involved in joint work. With the organization of deep processing, such production may well become a source of existence for communities. Communities and enterprises of indigenous peoples would be able to pay for the needs which are now paid for from the target-oriented programs of economic and social development of indigenous numerically small peoples.

The support of indigenous peoples is envisaged in these programs, including medical treatment of those suffering from alcoholism, which is known to be their scourge brought about by civilization. At the same time, the authorities take away the right to traditional economic activity, which could have provide means so that the indigenous peoples were able to support themselves and at the same time could be engaged in their habitual activities. Today, no doubt, alcoholism among the indigenous population is cultivated on purpose and scrupulously propped up by smart dealers making fortunes in this way. Non-engagement of population in traditional activities gives birth to a terrible type of business where, in exchange for vodka easily given as an advance payment, it becomes necessary to bring caviar again and again, which can be produced as a result of poaching only. Why is it necessary to spend public budget money, raised from taxes on that very fish, to cure a few patients from alcoholism every year, when they and a good many more could be engaged in traditional economic activity without any suffering from alcoholism? They will be earning wages and paying taxes in the bargain! Obviously, as long as the bioresources are subject to a fierce haggling, without any understanding on the part of the authorities of the principles of sustainability of traditional nature use, Kamchatkan indigenous peoples would not be able to occupy the ecological niche their forefathers used to occupy in the past.

Such principles can be laid out in the federal legislation in the form of allocation of percentage content from the total quantity of resources. Regretfully though, in 2000 it became evident that with the advent of new regional authorities, redistribution of roles of economic players will be arranged in the region every time, and this will entail redistribution of resources. Fixation of percentage for indigenous peoples at the federal level would make it possible to avoid such a fate.

It would be one of the first steps on the way to the organization of sustainable nature use of Kamchatkan indigenous peoples. Besides, it is necessary to improve efficiency of management of the communities and enterprises. Already today, it is not sufficient to simply catch fish, shoot animals and sell the products. It is required to effectively adjust to the constantly changing market, to carry out marketing and promotion of one’s products. It is vital to attract financial resources to modernize industries, to purchase new technological equipment. It is also important to set up year-round work for community production units. The organization of ethnic and ecological tourism, sport-oriented fishing, and production of souvenirs shows potential.

I would also like to mention the direct protection of nature in the locations of nature use of indigenous peoples’ communities. Various state safeguarding structures, no doubt, play a major role in environmental protection and will play it for years to come. Nonetheless, the direct participation of the population in this process ought to be a major condition for environmental protection. Economic incentives could become most effective in this direction, apart from ecological education. If every member of a community understands that catching of each kilo of salmon while poaching in the river where the community goes fishing regularly, is a factual pick pocketing from a community pouch, then hopefully he would understand that it is necessary to protect the river from poachers. If every businessman in fishing industry thinks the same way, the poacher would think twice and a hundred times before coming up to the river.