Last Update: July 2017

Introduction:  

The Russia Far East whitefish fishery improvement projects and initiatives are industry-led. Consequently, the SR confines its activities to tracking and monitoring the fisheries and FIPs (and the long-standing need for improvements in RFE whitefish fisheries - see appended) and to providing advice to the market as required. 

Background:  

Russian Far East (RFE) whitefish fisheries target a number of species. The total annual catch of RFE whitefish is over 2 million metric tons, with pollock representing 75% (about 1.5 million metric tons) of the total. Market analysis indicates that most pollock and other whitefish caught in the Russian Far East is exported to China and Korea and then to other countries, including the US and EU. Fish products exported from Russia are mainly frozen, headed, and headed-and-gutted.

In September 2013, a fishery targeting pollock operated by the RFE Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) in the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk (SoO) was certified as sustainable in accordance with criteria of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). 

In 2013, the RFE Longline Fishing Association (LFA) established a fishery improvement project (FIP) for longline fishing of Pacific cod and Pacific halibut. 

Supply Chain Roundtable Participants: 

  • Espersen
  • High Liner Foods
  • Gorton’s/Blue Water
  • Delmar

Fisheries and/or FIPs covered: At present, the roundtable focuses on a number of large-scale fisheries for pollock, Pacific cod, and Pacific halibut. The following FIP is supported and monitored (Note – MSC-certified fisheries are also monitored)

 The following initiative has been reported by the PCA: 

  • Launch of the RFE Navarinsky Pollock Sustainability Program (see below)

For more details on the sustainability status of the fisheries, progress of the FIPs, and improvement recommendations, please follow this link.  

Current Objectives:

The RFE Whitefish Supply Chain Roundtable objectives are focused on monitoring sustainability status and issues of RFE whitefish stocks, discussing actions required to engage the supply chain in the work on fisheries improvements in order to ensure long-term availability of RFE whitefish on domestic and international markets. 

The Russia Far East Whitefish Supply Chain Roundtable recognizes the improvements to fisheries management made over recent years.  However, while Sea of Okhotsk pollock is MSC certified and the LFA RFE Longline Pacific Cod and Pacific Halibut FIP is making progress, a number of long-standing issues have not yet been fully or even partially addressed: 

1.    Access to and disclosure of stock assessment data and total allowable catch (TAC) setting. The processes remain opaque and exclusive. In fact, recent media reports suggest a degradation of TAC stakeholder engagement in TAC setting (especially as the issue is a condition of the MSC certificate).

2.    The status of the West Bering (WB)/Navarinsky Sea pollock stock causes concern, but sourcing robust data continues to be a challenge.

     a.    The WB/Navarinsky fishery does have a sustainability improvement program, but this does not meet the internationally agreed criteria to be recognized as or evaluated as a FIP. 

Consequently, against the long-standing nature of these improvement needs, the roundtable will confine activities to tracking and monitoring the fisheries and FIPs, as well as providing advice to the market as required. Until these issues have progressed, the following procurement policies are recommended: 

1.    For pollock, only source from the SoO Pollock MSC-certified fishery.

2.    On an opportunistic basis, underline to existing and potential suppliers the requirement for data transparency/disclosure in publicly recognized FIPs.  

Progress Update: 2013 

May 2013: Longline Fishery Association launched a FIP for West Bering Sea longline fisheries of Pacific cod and Pacific halibut. SFP signed a framework FIP agreement with LFA and became a FIP participant. The FIP public reports and workplans continue to be published as required. 

September 2013: A fishery targeting pollock operated by the RFE Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) in the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk received certification as sustainable in accordance with criteria of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). At present, a newly established RFE Longline Fishing Association (LFA) is actively involved in a fishery improvement project (FIP) for longline fishing of Pacific cod and Pacific halibut. 

2014 

March 2014:  Briefing meeting for buyers and producers held at Boston Seafood Expo.  August 2014: A meeting with representatives of Russian fishery regulatory bodies and fisheries research institutes was held with both LFA and SFP participating. The meeting discussed current fishery improvement projects (FIPs) aimed at, in particular, achieving sustainability of RFE whitefish fisheries and needs for project support by fishery regulatory bodies and fisheries institutes. The Fishery Agency reaffirmed its continued support to industry initiatives in fisheries improvements and their final goal of ecological certification, including provision of public access to information on stock assessment and fisheries management.  

2015 

January – March January 2015: PCA announced a design of its Navarinsky Pollock Sustainability Program for the Navarinsky pollock fishery in the West Bering Sea aimed at fishery certification against Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) criteria. PCA reported that the program will last 3 years (2015–2017), was developed in accordance with MSC guidelines for fishery improvements projects, and allows tracking fishery progress against MSC criteria. The program summary, with fishery improvement actions, workplan, and expected results, was published in April 2015. It also refers to the MSC website’s fishery certification materials prepared earlier by PCA (in 2009–2010). The program will be implemented with support and contributions from the Russian Pollock Sustainability Alliance (RPSA) led by PCA. The steps undertaken by PCA are consistent with CASS (Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions) guidelines on the FIP launch process.  

March 2015: RFE Whitefish SR meeting was convened at the Seafood Expo North America (formerly Boston Seafood Show) on 15–17 March (Boston, MA, USA). 

Cod/Halibut  

  • LFA reported on its objectives and activities, including the work on the Pacific Cod and Pacific Halibut FIP jointly cosponsored with SFP. The FIP workplan for 2014 was successfully completed. In particular, it included:
    • Education of LFA fishing crew on matters and objectives of sustainable fisheries
    • Development and pilot implementation of a system for collecting data on the fisheries habitat impact, including all types of bycatch
    • Deployment of paired streamer lines on all of the LFA vessels in order to minimize incidental bycatch of marine birds and monitor streamer-line performance
    • Collection of fish samples for genetic studies aimed at clarification of Pacific cod population structure.

Pollock 

  • PCA informed the SR that Russian Sea of Okhotsk pollock successfully completed its first annual MSC surveillance audit, reporting progress on all conditions. 

April – June  

Deployment of scientific observers on board LFA fishing vessels continued. Data are collected on fisheries impact and performance of paired streamer lines in the reduction of incidental bycatch of seabirds. LFA deploys paired streamer lines on all its vessels on a voluntary basis. The number of scientific observers and duration of the observation program has been extended by involving additional personnel from VNIRO and TINRO research institutes. 

July – September  

July 2015: PCA further advised SFP of their plans to establish a special website on Russian pollock fisheries with information, in particular, on the operation of the Navarinsky Pollock FIP. LFA membership expanded to include a number of companies from the Russian Far East and Northern Fisheries Basins. 

October – December  

December 2015: The Russian Sea of Okhotsk pollock fishery successfully completed its second annual MSC surveillance audit. The report noted that one of the certification conditions is now fulfilled; completion of the other two conditions was delayed to 2016 as work continues on the remaining 5 conditions in accordance with the Client Action Plan. 

2016 

January – March 

January 2016: PCA established a new Russian Pollock Sustainability website. Its content is still under development with no information yet published on the Navarinsky Pollock Sustainability Program, which would support the program’s recognition as a FIP. 

March 2016: The Russian fishery business community expressed concerns with an apparent trend of limiting public access to TAC development data. 

March 2016: SR participant and stakeholder briefing held at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, MA, USA. Leadership of this FIP, including public reporting, will be transferred to LFA within 2016. Meeting notes here.  

April – July

April 2016: The Fisheries Agency conducted open discussions of the scientific recommendations for the TAC for 2017. Representatives of the fishing industry, NGOs, and media participated. However, the fishing industry later reiterated its view that a process of TAC establishment has become non-transparent with diminished role of regional fisheries institutes and main decision-making power handed over to the central VNIRO institute.

April 2016: During the Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global exhibition in Brussels (26–28 April), LFA signed an agreement with Marine Certification on full MSC certification of the West Bering Sea Pacific cod fishery with Pacific halibut taken as bycatch. The process should be completed in 2017, with a first field visit to Vladivostok by Marine Certification experts scheduled for September 2016.

April 2016: The SR participants confirmed that the SFP SR will restrict activities to tracking and monitoring the fisheries and FIPs, as well as providing advice to the market as required.

On 3 July 2016 Russia adopted a set of new changes to the 2004 Fisheries Act, as revised on 29.06.2015. Main changes are as follows:

  • Quota share allocation period increased from current 10 years to 15 years from 1 Jan 2019.
  • Current "historic" principle of quota share allocation remains but 20% of the total TAC will be set aside for allocation as a bonus to share holders who invest in building new fishing vessels on domestic dockyards and/or fish processing facilities.
  • Investors would be able to use the bonus share only after completion of their investment projects.
  • Current mandatory limit to quota owners for catching not less than 50% of a quota in any two consecutive years by their own vessels was increased to 70% as a measure strengthened to eliminate so-called rentier who hold quota shares but don't own vessels.
  • There will be no more division of fishing areas in coastal and open sea areas. Each quota owner will be required to choose a type of fishery to operate. A fishery selection could later be changed, if required.
  • Quotas for coastal fishery will be increased in 1.2 times in order to stimulate regional economy by delivering ashore fresh and chilled fish for local processing and sale on domestic markets.
  • Transshipment of coastal catches at-sea is prohibited.
  • For coastal fisheries owners should be registered in coastal territory entities.

August – December 

  • TAC-2017 for Russian fisheries is now published in the Ministry of Agriculture Order N 445 of 10 October 2016. The Order (in Russian) is available here
  • The pollock TAC, which makes up the majority of Russia's catch, rose 2.9 percent from this year to 1,891,000 metric tons. The quota for the Sea of Okhotsk is set at 1.07 million metric tons, while the combined pollock quota in the West Bering Sea, East Kamchatka, North Kuril, and South Kuril zones was set at 807,100 metric tons. The TAC for Pacific cod was set at 121,600 metric tons, while the quota for flounder in the Far East was set at 76,460 metric tons. 
  • In October 2016, PCA started to populate its Russian Pollock Sustainability website with information required. In particular, the page on stock status now contains 2015 stock assessment data for all pollock fishery areas, including biomass estimates for SOO, WBS, and Navarinsky stocks. 
  • A certification pre-assessment of Pacific cod and Pacific halibut longline fisheries in the West Bering Sea was conducted from 3 to 5 October 2016. This is the first step in the full certification assessment process started by the Russian Longline Fishing Association in April 2016. In total, in the certification area members of the Association annually harvest about 25 thousand metric tons of Pacific cod, halibuts, and other species. 
  • As of 1 October 2016, the Longline Fishing Association has assumed full responsibility for the FIP implementation including, in particular, publication of FIP public reports. Previous FIP reports are available via the FIP archive section on this website.

2017

SR participants were provided with an update on the status of RFE whitefish fisheries and FIPs and were invited to meet individually with SFP representatives, where needed, during the Boston Seafood Expo in March.

Project Contact: If you would like more information about the Supplier Roundtable, please contact SFP.

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