WHY BORDER GUARDS GUARD RUSSIA’S BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES

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Every day brings new details connected with the murder of Major General of the Federal Border Guards Service Vitaly Gamov in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Some mass media referred to Konstantin Chaika, Deputy General Prosecutor in the Far Eastern Federal District and reported that the killed general could have been connected to criminals. Previously it was always stressed that the main theory of investigators was a relationship of the murder to professional activities of Gamov. Investigators presumed that the attempt to murder Gamov was caused because of his successful struggle against the criminals, and Gamov was considered one of the most honest officers of the Federal Border Guards Service. Mass media reported that a circle of suspects was chosen, a part of these people were detained, and a search was announced for the other part. Chaika explained to journalists that one of the suspects was arrested in the Kaliningrad Region and was being interrogated at that location.

Meanwhile, it is known that the Federal Border Guards Service started guarding biological resources from January 1, 1998. Andrei Nikolaev, who was Director of the Federal Border Guards Service then, initiated this. According to his proposal, President Boris Yeltsin signed decree No. 950 of August 27, 1997, “On measures for provision of protection of maritime biological resources and state control in this field.” The document laid guarding of biological resources of the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and seabed of Russia, as well as state control in this area on border guards.

It is no wonder that the Federal Border Guards Service was chosen for protection of biological resources. According to the Interior Ministry, between 1994 and 1996 the number of crimes in fishing tripled. The volume of fish confiscated during this period grew by 1,500%. Thus the border guards became a serious obstacle for poachers, a fact which is confirmed by explosion of the house in Kaspiysk, where families of border guard officers who struggled against the “caviar mafia’ lived, as well as by the murder of General Gamov.

Meanwhile, these isolated facts are supplemented by statistics, which incumbent Director of the Federal Border Guards Service Konstantin Totsky has frequently announced during his press conferences. In 2001, coast guard units of the Federal Border Guards Service detained and escorted 580 ships to Russian ports and confiscated about 2 tons of seafood, and over the first four months of 2002 they inspected more than 4,500 Russian and foreign ships, detained 218 of them and fined over 500. The volume of confiscated illegally caught seafood doubled in comparison to 2001.

Speaking about the reasons for such growth, Totsky says that imperfection of the legislative base creates preconditions for poaching. Thus, a year ago border guards detained Bereg Nadezhdy refrigerator-ship in the Pacific Ocean with a cargo equivalent to approximately three railway carriages, heading abroad. The refrigerator-ship was detained, but investigation of this case is still in progress and no measures are being taken against the poachers. Totsky notes that when patrol ships detain poachers, the poachers “frequently behave insolently, do not fulfill the demands, perform dangerous maneuvers and create situations in which crashes are possible.” In some cases border guards have to use weapons. In 2001, they used weapons seven times in the Far East and five times in the Caspian Sea.

Thus, the struggle between the border guards and poachers is serious. If the state does not restore order in this field, theft of national biological resources will continue.

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