Maritime Territory of Russia: the Fishery Sector


Maritime Territory of Russia: the Fishery Sector

Early years: from artisanal to industrial fishing

The Kaliningrad region is the maritime region of Russia. Many people living in Kaliningrad are linked to the sea, the only Museum of the World Ocean in Russia is located here, and Fisherman’s Day is among the most popular holidays in the far west of the country. During the Soviet period, the fishing industry became one of the mainstays of the region’s economy, a real engine for manufacturing, commerce, science, and education. The 1960s were an important stage in this process.

In the pre-war period, fishing in East Prussia was an artisanal, commercial, seasonal activity that individual fishermen and small artels, which used mainly sailboats and rowing boats, were engaged in. The establishment of industrial fishing in this area began after the end of the Great Patriotic War.

In 1945 and the first half of 1947, in a difficult and sometimes crisis food situation, fishing was an important source of replenishment of food reserves necessary for the survival of the growing population of the region.
Soviet fishermen in the Curonian Lagoon
On 21 July 1947 the Council of Ministers of the USSR issued the historic decree "On the development of the fishing industry in the Kaliningrad region". Being a result of work of the famous Kosygin Commission, the document outlined a wide range of measures in the region: building a powerful fishing industry complex consisting of mining, processing, shipbuilding and ship repairing enterprises; relocation of hundreds of fishermen families from the Volga and Novgorod regions; establishment of a nautical school.

The implementation of the decree led to the intensification of the work of Baltgosrybtrest, which was given the task of increasing fishing in the Baltic Sea, as well as replenishing the fishing fleet with small trawlers and seiners from Germany, Denmark, and from the Astrakhan shipyard. Fishing was also carried out by fish factories and collective fisheries.

Deployment of fishing in the Baltic Sea and preparations to organise fishing expeditions to the North Atlantic took place simultaneously. In June 1948 the first North Atlantic (Icelandic) herring expedition with the factory ship "Tungus" as a flagship paved the way for the Soviet fishing fleet to the ocean.

Towards the World Ocean

In the 1950s, the management of the USSR fishing industry was charged with the task of significant expansion of fishing, including remote regions of the World Ocean, and a sharp increase in production. It was all about changing the country’s place in the global fisheries industry, moving it into the "major league" of leaders in this sector of the world economy.

The Kaliningrad region was not the least in this ambitious undertaking, so the region’s fishing fleet was supplied with dozens of middle-size fishing trawlers. First heavy-tonnage trawlers with freezing refrigeration units, and factory ships were delivered to the region. A fleet of auxiliary vessels was extended. Shipyards of USSR, GDR and Poland participated in creation of the region’s fishing fleet. The arrival of new vessels enabled the development of remote regions of the World Ocean.

The first half of the 1950s saw the development of fishing in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. Fishing in the Equatorial and South Atlantic started in the second half of the decade. Along with the expansion of the Atlantic fisheries, fisheries exploration was also taking place. In 1957 the first research expedition sailed to the coast of West Africa aboard the large full-freezing fishing trawler "Kazan" to search for the possibility of fishing for sardine.
The large full-freezing fishing trawler "Kazan"

Avenir P. Sukhondyaevsky


The life of Avenir P. Sukhondyaevsky has been linked to the sea since he was 17. He started working in 1932 as a sailor in Arkhangelsk and participated in the Great Patriotic War. From 1949 he worked in the fishing industry of the Kaliningrad region as a captain and a head of North Atlantic herring expedition. In 1957 as captain of Large full-freezing fishing trawler "Kazan" Avenir Sukhondyaevsky took part in the first scientific fishing expedition to the coast of West Africa. In 1958 he led the second expedition to that region, and in 1963 he was awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labour "for outstanding achievements in achieving high levels of fish production".

During the same period, an impressive fish-processing infrastructure was developed in the region. In the second half of the 1940s during herring expeditions on fishing vessels seamen produced in fish factories chilled, salted, smoked and dried products. The production of tins, cans and preserves was then set up. In the 1950s the emergence of modern floating vessels made it possible to produce preserves directly at sea, and the arrival of freezing trawlers made it possible to stock the raw material and move fish factories to year-round operation.

An important component of the fisheries sector was the Baltic Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (BaltNIRO, since 1962 — AtlantNIRO), originally established in 1949 as a branch of the All-Union Institute. Specialists of BaltNIRO carried out instructions for the operation of vessels, fisheries exploration, technology of fish processing and mapped the distribution of fishery resources. The Kaliningrad Technical Institute, transferred from Moscow in 1958, became a major centre for the development of higher professional education and applied research.

The undoubted successes of the 1950s made it possible to hope that the ambitious tasks set by the Party and Government would be fulfilled in the coming years.

The hour of triumph

The 1960s were a qualitatively new stage in the development of the fishing industry in the region. During this period the fishing fleet grew in number.

While more than 200 middle-size fishing trawlers were delivered to the region before 1960, from 1958 the fleet was being supplied with "Ocean"-type middle-size freezing fishing trawlers, which were much bigger than vessels of previous types. From 1962 "Mayak"-type freezing trawlers joined the fleet.
The "Ocean"-type middle-size freezing fishing trawler
Since the mid-1960s large trawlers have been at the forefront of the fishing fleet, the first of which (like the already mentioned large full-freezing fishing trawler "Kazan") came to the region back in the late fifties. By 1971 the fleet received 40 of these trawlers. These large vessels were intended for fishing, fish processing, and storage of products before arrival to port or before delivery to transport refrigerators.

Expeditions to remote parts of the ocean involved the use of factory ships. Since the mid-1960s the Kaliningrad flotilla has been expanded to include the real giant vessels, such as the "Rybatskaya slava" and the factory-ship "Pionersk". The fleet of receiving and supply vessels and auxiliary vessels has grown considerably. The rate of arrival of new vessels of different types was astounding: from 10 to 20 vessels every year!
In 1960 the Antarctic whaling flotilla was established in Kaliningrad. It was named after its flagship — the "Yuri Dolgoruky" whaling factory ship, that had been rebuilt in the GDR from a German passenger ocean liner. The same year the flotilla made its first voyage and caught 3,484 whales.

During its lifetime (until 1975) the flotilla made 15 voyages around the world, catching more than 58 thousand whales of 12 species.
Due to the introduction of a ban by sea states on fishing by foreign vessels in coastal zones, many traditional fishing areas were lost in the 1960s. However, this did not lead to a crisis in the industry, but was instead a factor in the search for new areas and fishing patterns.

In 1965 the fishing area included the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the Southwest Atlantic. The Kaliningrad Expeditionary Fleet Base was formed to operate in these areas. The fleet was based on the territory of friendly Cuba, the service units were located in Kaliningrad, and relief crews of the vessels travelled to Havana from Moscow and back by air transport. Such a scheme has had a significant economic effect, preserving the life of vessels. In addition, training of Cuban fishermen by specialists from the USSR was organised in Cuba. Students could receive higher education and relevant qualifications at the Kaliningrad Technical Institute.
By the middle of the decade, the structure of the region’s fishing industry took shape, including mining and processing enterprises, shipyards and workshops, auxiliary enterprises and educational institutions.
The Kaliningrad Fishing Port
In the 1960s the Kaliningrad Fishing Port underwent rapid development: the seabed was dredged, new production buildings and a refrigerator were built, and the port was equipped with 34 heavy-duty cranes. By the beginning of the 1970s the port has become one of the largest and most mechanized ports in the country. It handled 600 heavy-tonnage vessels and over 50 thousand carriages annually.
The fishing fleet began to harvest mackerel, jack mackerel, sardine, sardinella, ocean perch, hake and squid on an industrial scale. AtlantNIRO prepared documentation on the processing of new fishery items; the enterprises produced dozens of types of canned fish, preserves and other products.

Dozens of specialists from the enterprises of the Kaliningrad Fishery Production Department worked continuously on upgrading equipment and the production process.
Scientific study of the ocean in the 1960s was carried out not only by researchers from the AtlantNIRO and the Kaliningrad Technical Institute, but also by members of the Atlantic Branch of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, which opened in Kaliningrad in 1962. P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, which opened in Kaliningrad in 1962. In contrast to AtlantNIRO which was aimed at applied research, the department was engaged mainly in basic science, and the research fleet made it possible to conduct long-term study of topography and currents of the World Ocean.

Sea fishing and life in the Amber region

In the 1960s the fishing industry became the largest part of the region's economy. It employed over 50 thousand people, and created more than a half of the region's total production value. More than 10% of all fish caught in the USSR was delivered to ports by Kaliningrad fishermen. However, the industry's importance in the life of the region was certainly not limited to economic indicators. Fishing and related activities brought migrants from the inland regions of the country closer to the sea, left a deep mark on the everyday culture of Kaliningrad residents and were reflected in the works of poets, writers and artists of the Amber region.

Yuri N. Ivanov


Yuri N. Ivanov was a Russian writer, oceanologist, public figure. In 1945 he arrived in Königsberg together with the military unit in which his father was serving. Ivanov graduated from school in Kaliningrad. Since 1959 he participated in scientific expeditions, then became a researcher at the AtlantNIRO. Yuri Ivanov was the founder and the first head of the museum of the institute. He wrote his first story in 1956. The main themes of his works were the Great Patriotic War and the people who set sail on the sea. The sea and its toilers were glorified by the writer in his books "Road to the Tropics", "Atlantic Voyage", "Caribbean Souvenir", "Course to Havana", "Cassiopeia", "Tornado", "Eternal Return", "The Road of Winds".

Since 1987 Ivanov headed the regional branch of the Soviet (since 1992 — the Russian) Fund of Culture.

The seeing-off and meetings of the first expeditions to the Atlantic were always held on a grand scale, becoming truly historic events. News and reports on fishing have made their way into the local press and radio, and the fishermen’s and sailors' houses of culture were centres of leisure and education. The Fisherman’s Day, officially established in 1965, soon became a national holiday, near and dear to many, and in 2006, in memory of the first herring expeditions, the "Herring Day" was held for the first time in Kaliningrad.