With the spring coming to Ukraine, the world around started to wake up. Water inhabitants have entered the most important period - spawning season, success of which will define whether our lakes and rivers will be full of fish or its depopulation will continue.

Every year the ban on finishing in Kyiv waters is introduced from April 1 (this year April 5 due to bad weather conditions). This is the period when workers of the State fishery agency register the burst of activity of poachers.

On April 11, to prevent the sale of poached fish, a response team of the Kyiv Main department on protection of aquatic bioresources, law enforcements officers and members of the public environmental organization "Union of anglers of Ukraine" carried out a sweep of unauthorized markets in Kyiv and region, and ForUm joined the forces.

Workers of territorial departments of the State fishery agency know the places, where poachers usually catch and sell the fish. First we went to the unauthorized market in Vishenky village of Boryspil district of Kyiv region.

On the way to the village Andriy Nelypa, president of "Union of anglers of Ukraine", told us that the response team know many poachers by sight, as those poachers fish and sell during spawning season quite regularly. The product gets sold without any documents or with forged documents.

Two guys were selling nice big fish right from a basin on the ground with no documents attached.

Considering obvious violation, the guys did no resist interrogation and search, though reported that they had no previous records on poaching.

Chief inspector of the Main department on protection of aquatic bioresources Yuri Kurashov told us that the fish was probably caught last night. There were about 30 kilos of fish in the basin, and almost every fish was full of eggs.

"The fish are full of eggs, so they did not spawn, thus our fishing industry has suffered great losses. This pike will cost the poacher 340 hryvnias of fine, the pikeperch - 510 hryvnias, the roach- 85 hryvnias and the bream - 170 hryvnias. If the fish had spawned, we would have had hundred times more fish than you see now. Moreover, pikeperch has almost gone from our rivers. What a shame."

The losses are estimated at the amount of 8-10 thousand hryvnias. However, officials of the Main department on protection of aquatic bioresources say that judges do no punish hard for the first time - usually 51 hryvnias of fine (maximum UAH 170), which will hardly convince the guys of economical inexpedience of poaching.  

"All administrative protocols being registered by inspectors are delivered to the department. If offenders have priors, the case will go to court. Article 85, paragraph 4 of the Administrative Code provides for a fine at the amount of 20-40 tax-exempt minimums. As a rule, judges set 40, which is 320 hryvnias. If the violation is not the first one, the court may apply measures that are more serious. However, I believe that if poaching had been so unprofitable, it would have already disappeared," Kurashov explained.

In turn, local people around started to defend the guys and slam the media for covering the event. "People fish because economy is down, and you are hunting people, who just try to survive,' local citizen Doromyr told ForUm in a comment.

Having learned that the fish was confiscated and was no longer for sale, this older woman decided to take one for free, but was immediately stopped by the response team.

Deputy of the local council Oleksandr Kaliguda decided to talk to journalists, but only aggravated the situation. "After fishing they come to sell here. I happen to see fish on the market, but not regularly. Sometimes we have inspectors coming here, but not often, as this market is not registered."

Having heard the explanation, the response team ordered law enforcement officers to send an inquiry regarding the status of this trading area and file a protocol about unauthorized trade.

Local police officer Oleksandr Zdor, however, refused to file documents. "The Administrative Code of Ukraine speaks about illegal trade in cities only. The Cabinet is now considering the ban in villages, but this norm is not stipulated by the Code yet."

The fish get confiscated, but as we learned later, the Main department on protection of aquatic bioresources does not have enough room to store the confiscated product, so the fish stay with poachers. What an irony...

Boryspil district is the leader on fish poaching. About 100 protocols on violations were registered here in 2012.

Returning from the village, we stopped near the fifth gate of Kaniv reservoir. It is one of the favorite places for anglers, who often complain about poaches netting in spawning area.

Yuri Kurashov demonstrated the fish caught with nets and confiscate by the Main department on protection of aquatic bioresources last night. The nets will be burned, and the fish will be delivered to the fishing farm.

To identify their nets many poachers often use bottles, foam plastic or corks. Others use navigators to escape detection. 

By the way, it is easy to tell a poacher's net from the fishing farm net. Every fishing farm net has a label, registered in the regional registry of the State fishery agency.

"During the spawning season nets usually catch pikes and roaches, which come to shallow waters to get warm. Nets with a mesh size of 4.5 cm catch small pikes, roaches, perches, of 8 cm - big pikes, catfish, solver carps," Yuri Kurashov explains.

According to the chief inspector, the number of poachers has decreased significantly since soviet times. The fines have become bigger and the equipment of the fishery inspection has been upgraded. Moreover, mass constructions near the water make it difficult to reach.

The next stop was on "Kharkovski" market. However, inspectors did not find any violations there - all sellers had proper documents. Then we went to "Yunist" market, which is full of poachers, according to law enforcements. But what a surprise, all fish disappeared from the stalls. It turned out someone warned poachers about possible inspection and the latter decided to play safe.

However, inspectors had another place in mind - market "Lesnoy". Soon a violation was discovered. A woman was selling fish in metal containers attached to art tanks.

"Documents say the fish is from a fishing farm of Odessa region, but these documents do not have proper signature and date. Offenders often use such papers to cover tracks - to put a stamp and date when they need to," Yuri Kurashov explained.

Well, we have seen for ourselves that in pursuit of quick money people do not think about the damage they cause to water bodies of the country.

In the first quarter of 2013, the Main department on protection of aquatic bioresources detained 15479 offenders and imposed fines in the amount of 286.628 hryvnias. As of today, the total amount of losses the state fishery has suffered numbers five million 903 thousand 506 hryvnias.

For the spawning season of last year, the inspection revealed 22862 violations and imposed fines in the amount one million 732 thousand hryvnias. The total amount of losses the state fishery suffered numbered 14 million 056 hryvnias. Moreover, the inspection confiscated 119 thousand 654 kilos of poached fish and about 30 thousand illegal tools for unauthorized fishing.

From year to year, the fish population decreases in Ukraine, but people do not care and think only about earning money at the cost of free of charge natural resources. We would like to remind all fishermen that there is enough room for all of them to go fishing, but all in due time. 

Anastasia Pika, photos by Maxim Trebukhov


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