Russia suspends fishery agreement with Japan

The Russian foreign ministry has announced a suspension of a 1998 bilateral agreement that stipulates the safe operation of Japanese fishing boats in waters around four islands in Japan’s northern territories, which are occupied by Russia.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Russian ministry claimed the suspension was because of delays to the implementation of technical assistance from Japan in the Sakhalin Region.

The suspension is seen as a protest against Japan’s tightening of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Moscow said it would suspend the deal “until Tokyo meets its financial commitments.”

The agreement is one of several fisheries deals between Japan and Russia.

Under the agreement, annual negotiations are held to set such terms as the size of catches, the fishing season period, the number of boats and fees to be paid to Russia.

It is designed to prevent Russia from seizing Japanese boats in the northern territories.

The terms for the upcoming season were decided in December last year, with Alaska pollack, Atka mackerel and octopus, among other marine resources, covered under the agreement.

The catch volume this year was set at a total of 2,177 tons.

The fishing season will start with Atka mackerel on Sept. 16 and with pollock — which accounts for more than 40% of the total catch — between January and March next year.

Russia’s move is expected to have a limited impact in the immediate future because the suspension has come during the off-season.

“It is regrettable that a unilateral announcement has been made,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Wednesday. “Japan will continue to consult with Russia to ensure that fishing operations can be carried out under the terms of the agreement.”