Russia's fish production ranks seventh in the world, following China, Peru, Japan, Chile, the United States, and India. In 2000, 94% of the catch was marine, while 6% came from inland waters. The total catch in 2001 was 4,890,000 tons. Leading commodities by volume included frozen fish, 3,500,000 tons; canned, 205,000 tons; and cured, 480,000 tons. The main species of the commercial catch in 2001 included (in thousands of tons): cod, 1,729; herring, 403; salmon, 224; and plaice, 114. More than half of Russian fish product exports consist of frozen products. Exports of frozen fish in 2001 were valued at $288.4 million; fillets, $32.3 million; and roe, $31.1 million.
Overfishing and pollution of territorial waters have forced fishermen farther away from traditional fishing waters. For example, pollutants like mercury have partly caused the decline of the sturgeon and pike perch catches, which fell by 50% and 90%, respectively, from 1974 to 1987 in the Caspian Sea. Similar ecological problems also have affected fishing in the Azov Sea. Russia's enormous fishing fleet has many old vessels, and fuel shortages are common. Since 1991, more than 70 vessels have been leased from Spanish, Norwegian, and German shipbuilding yards. In 1995 alone, 205 Russian fishing vessels were mothballed or sold for scrap.
Despite problems with pollution, the Russian catch expanded during the 1980s (the marine catch by 24%, the freshwater catch by 26%) due to intensified fishing in dam reservoirs, consumption substitution toward nontraditional fish stocks, and acceptance of higher levels of contaminants. Since 1990, the production of fish and fish products has declined without interruption. Direct subsidies from the federal government ceased in 1994. As a result, the proportion of unprocessed fish products has steadily risen since 1990. Badly worn ships and equipment continue to limit production. Russia is eligible to catch up to five million tons of fish outside its territorial waters, but typically only reachesonemillion tons.