Russian pollock from the Western Bering Sea
The Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) has obtained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for the Russian pollock fishery in the West Bering Sea. This comes after nine months of independent assessment by Lloyd’s Register for compliance with the MSC Fisheries Standard.
The certification body assessed the pelagic trawl pollock fishing in the Navarinsky region of the Bering Sea (area of the western Bering Sea east of the 174e meridian) on the stock status of the target species, the environmental impacts and the effectiveness of the fisheries management system.
The Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) was established in 2006 and is one of the largest associations in the Russian fishing industry. It comprises 32 companies that employ more than 12,000 people and operate 100 fishing and processing vessels, catching around 1.8 million tonnes of fish and seafood per year.
The members of the APC mainly fish for pollock in the seas of the Far East. PCA companies account for more than 75% of pollock catches in Russia (around 1.4 million tonnes in 2020) and around 40% of pollock catches worldwide.
In September 2013, the PCA obtained MSC certification for the pelagic trawl pollock fishing in its key region – the Sea of Okhotsk. In 2018, the fishery was successfully recertified, demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and well-managed fishing operations. In March 2021, the scope was also extended to include the certification of Eastern Sakhalin Pollock.
The certification of the West Bering Sea pollock fishery adds 300,000 MT of MSC certified pollock to the PCA total, which together with the Sea of Okhotsk now totals 1,200,000 MT of MSC eligible pollock. These certified fisheries now account for over 65% of all Russian pollock catches.
In 2010, and again in 2018, the APC commissioned pre-assessments of its western Bering Sea pollock fisheries from the MSC. It operationalized a fishery improvement plan based on it between 2018 and 2020. This allowed the APC to improve fishing operations for a full assessment of the fishery to MSC standards.
Alexey Buglak, President of the Pollock Catchers Association, said: “We are proud to achieve MSC certification for our second largest pollock fishery. The successful certification was preceded by intensive improvement work by PCA. This included targeted science surveys to estimate the impact of pelagic trawl fishing on marine mammals and birds, and improving the collection of pollock and bycatch data not targeted by the observer program. It is important that this work continues and within this framework the APC has developed an action plan to meet the conditions prescribed by the certification ”.
Rupert Howes, Managing Director of the Marine Stewardship Council, said: “We congratulate the PCA on this important milestone. The Western Bering Sea Pollock Fishery has been working towards MSC certification for many years. In this context, he made the necessary improvements to demonstrate compliance with the MSC Fisheries Standard. Its improvement journey will undoubtedly continue within the framework of the MSC program.
“The PCA is required to provide four improvements as a condition of certification, and progress against these will need to be verified by third-party auditors throughout the certification period. This is to further strengthen the management of non-target species.
“MSC certification provides the strongest assurance of fisheries sustainability available. This certification and traceability throughout the supply chain will allow pollock in this fishery to carry the MSC label in order to credibly demonstrate to buyers that the seafood comes from a well-managed fishery. This is great news for markets around the world ”.
Stuart Caborn, Purchasing Director of Nomad Foods, said: “As the world’s largest purchaser of certified Alaskan pollock, we have a key role to play in ensuring healthy fish stocks and ocean habitats. We welcome the MSC certification of the Western Bering Sea Alaska Pollock Fishery as another important step in securing more fisheries around the world, improving their practices so that we can provide consumers with products from the fishing from more sustainable sources.