How Russia’s War on Ukraine Can Impact Small-Scale Fisheries

By Katherine Burns

Photo by Quang Nyguen Vinh


Between sanctions by the European Union on seafood, disruptions in the Arctic Council, and stray land mines being set adrift in the Black Sea, this war has been devastating for small-scale fisheries. The impact of Russia's war on Ukraine has been felt all through the Northern Hemisphere and has been called to attention by the Arctic Council. Created in 1996, the Arctic Council manages the intergovernmental affairs of indigenous peoples and Arctic governments.


A joint announcement regarding Russia’s war against Ukraine was made by seven of the remaining council members in March of 2022. The United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland all agreed to temporarily suspend council operations. This cast out Russia, who was the eighth member of the council. However, the pause of council activities prevented work on important issues such as management and regulation of Northern fisheries, conservation, pollution, and other issues surrounding climate change.


An article by Chelsea Harvey of Scientific American affirms this statement, elaborating further on how the Arctic Council’s work can impact small-scale fisheries.


“It’s necessary for Arctic nations to work together to enforce catch limits and other sustainable fishing practices in order to keep fish stocks from declining or collapsing.”


According to a piece by Trine Jonassen of High North News, the Arctic Council has since resumed its work on a limited basis, as they continue to deliberate on how to best proceed without Russia. It is vital that a solution is developed sooner rather than later, as the fisheries of the region will suffer without their guidance.


Meanwhile, the impacts of the war in Ukraine have reached Scotland’s fishing industry. Millions of fish that are traditionally exported to Ukraine and Belarus cannot arrive, putting an entire industry at risk.


Fishing and freezing firm Lunar has lorries being prevented from moving mackerel to Ukraine. In the meantime, there is an excess of product that’s being stored.

Lunar president Sinclair Banks confirmed this with David Shanks of BBC Scotland in March.


“The difficulty is deciding whether you hold that stock hoping that things improve and the customers that are in the Ukraine are able to take the product.”


The export market provides fish that are essential for the Ukrainian people, and Banks emphasized this.


"There is also the possibility that government could intervene along with the Ukrainian government and find a way of entry into Ukraine, for what is a vital food source for the Ukrainian people.”

In addition to the constraints on the export market that Russia’s war has caused, Turkish fishermen have had to deal with stray land mines in the Black Sea. The first ones were discovered in late March. Turkish authorities feared that the mines had become unmoored from the Ukrainian coast during storms.

This has put Turkish fishermen in jeopardy, as it is local and small-scale fishers that originally discovered the floating land mines.

According to an article from France24, many fishermen stopped going out to sea as a result. Turkish officials banned fishing at night, and coupling that with elevated fuel prices steered many fishermen away from the water for the time being.

Russia’s war on Ukraine continues to have massive and devastating ramifications that must be constantly examined and aided. This is a brief foray into the impact that might be had on small-scale fishers, a cohort that's oftentimes forgotten and underrepresented.