In the Rostov region, crayfish are most often caught in the reservoirs of the Manych cascade, in the Don and Sal rivers. However, the crayfish population is declining there. According to the Ecological Bulletin of the Don, from 2015 to 2019, the commercial stock of crayfish decreased by 16%. The study says that illegal fishing, excessive overgrowth of water bodies, shallowing, and silting of crayfish-producing areas affect the decline in the population. It will take more than one year to restore the number of crayfish. On top of that, the crayfish also shredded. For example, the share of crayfish over 14 cm in the Don floodplain is only 2-3%. Small individuals account for more than half of the catch.
The owner of a chain of specialized fish stores told RostovGazeta that poachers are the main problem. According to him, they can recoup their spending on the purchase of a boat and crayfish in a month. “ Everything tends to end. So our crayfish will soon end if we catch it on such a frantic scale and do not allow the population to recover. Crayfish from Sevan (Armenia) can serve as an example for us. A few years ago, it seemed that Sevan crayfish would never end; a lot of it was imported to our region for sale. What happened in the end? The crayfish in Lake Sevan has almost disappeared, ”he said.
The businessman believes that corruption is to blame. He calls the water guards "bribe-takers." The only period when law enforcement officers harshly persecute poachers is during Operation Putin, which is held from April 1 to May 31. Violation of the fishing rules during this period faces not only administrative but also criminal liability. So, this year in the Rostov region, police officers opened 360 criminal cases, and 91 violators were brought to justice.
The owner of another store says that now in the Rostov region it is possible to buy Don crayfish only from poachers . In addition, she said there were many cheap crayfish of dubious quality on the market. “Now you can buy ready-made crayfish for 800-900 rubles, since people began to trade through social networks. They cook at home and in garages, not spending money on anything else, ”the interlocutor of RostovGazeta said. She also said that some unscrupulous sellers sell crayfish that died before cooking, which can lead to poisoning.
“Entrepreneurs complain about the lack of sale of the Don Manych crayfish. This is due to poaching. Not all big business and specialty chain stores are willing to take the risk and buy illicitly caught crayfish. However, the Don crayfish can be easily found in any market where traders claim that they caught the crayfish in a pond, and not on the Don, where there is a ban on fishing. At the same time, the price for Don crayfish, as experts say, has grown by 50% over the past three years", - RostovGazeta correspondent Tat Gasparyan told Novye Izvestia.
The well-known Don Cossack Maxim Ilyinov believes that in order to restore the crayfish population, it is necessary to completely ban their fishing in the Manych River and on the Don for at least two to three years. He recalled that only after the shamika was listed in the Red Book, its population recovered. He noted that artificial restoration of the crayfish population may also not help, since poachers also catch fry.
“So far, there is no point in growing crayfish in artificial reservoirs in the Rostov region. The reproductive potential is too high to resort to artificial reproduction. But we are working in this direction, ”said Vladimir Belousov, deputy head of the Azov-Chernomorsky branch of the VNIRO Federal State Budgetary Scientific Institution. The biggest problem for crayfish in the Rostov region, he called the lack of water.
Ichthyologist Daniil Seredin is also not a supporter of the theory of poaching. He believes that ecology is to blame for the disruption of the Don crayfish population. “As a diver, I see the crayfish population recover over and over again every year - they are very fertile. But also in the spring I see that all these newly born young are dying of diseases. The number of crayfish corresponds to the current ecological situation, ”he says.
According to the ichthyologist, crayfish need animals and birds to live in the water zone. Then the crustaceans will be able to feed by processing their waste products. Now the reservoirs "starved to death." “There are no nutrients and substances that are vital for the growth of not only crayfish, but also all other aquatic inhabitants. If the “empty” reservoirs are “fed” with waste products of animals and birds, everything will recover by itself”, - Seredin believes.
Andrei Baryshev, director of Raki Yuga LLC, intends to replenish the Manych crayfish population. He is going to grow crayfish in the Salskoe reservoir on an area of 560 hectares. The experiment will begin this fall. Its results can be judged only in 3-5 years - that much is needed to grow a full cycle of the Don crayfish. At the same time, the businessman believes that in 10 years he will be able to enter the world market.
“We are planning to work for export. Previously, Manych crayfish were delivered to France by air, we think over time to revive this tradition”, - says Baryshev.
In his opinion, Don crayfish should be equated with aquaculture. Then it will be possible to legally grow them and sell them. “In some regions, the law has already been adopted, we have not yet,” the businessman added.
According to Gasparyan, a 16% decrease in commercial crayfish over five years, most likely, does not harm the economy of the Rostov region, since this figure is not critical. “It is the problem of crayfish on the Don that officials do not deal with, since there is no need yet”, - she added.