Last Update: April 2016
Species: Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)
Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis)
FIP Scope/Scale: Stock level
Fishery Location: Russian EEZ, FAO Statistical Area 61 (see map below in Section 1.2)
Date FIP Publicly Announced: May 2013
FIP Stage: 4, regulatory policy change and actions to improve the fishery undertaken (see the attached workplan)
Longline Fishery Association
Sustainable Fisheries Partnership
If you would like more information about the FIP or wish to support the FIP, please contact Mr. Mikhail Zaitsev, President, Longline Fisheries Association (LFA).
LFA membership (as of April 1, 2016)
- Yamsy JSC (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky)
- Dalrybprom JSC (Vladivostok)
- Interrybflot LLC (Vladivostok)
- Polaris LLC (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky)
- Sigma Marine Technology LTD (Khabarovsk)
- NPP Vega JSC (Murmansk)
- Persey LLC (Murmansk)
- RK V. I. Lenina (Arkhangelsk)
- RK Zarya (Arkhangelsk)
- Alyance Plus LLC (Murmansk)
- Orion Pacific JSC (Vladivostok)
- High Liner Foods
Improvement Needs Identified in the Fisheries
Major areas of current concern in the Russian Pacific cod and Pacific halibut longline fisheries include:
1. Improvement of data on all removals during longline fishing, including bycatch of non-target and non-marketable species and possible impact on endangered, threatened, and protected (ETP) species. Such data are important for the assessment of targeted stocks and interactions with other species. The fishing vessels involved in longline fisheries can contribute to collection of such data by at-sea scientific observers.
2. Analysis and harmonization of the methods used for stock assessments in different management areas.
3. Development of robust harvest control rules (HCR) for management of fisheries based on the precautionary approach. Such HCRs may need additional work on establishment of biological reference points and development of simulation models to ensure that the management strategy is robust and complies with the precautionary approach.
4. Clear internal rules of behavior for the fishermen while in the fishery, necessitating development and implementation of corporate sustainable fishery policy and code of conduct.
5. Better understanding and analysis of fishing practices leading to potential IUU fishing for Pacific cod and Pacific halibut.
6. Improvement of transparency and public access to information about status of harvested resources and their management, as well as operation of a system for fisheries monitoring and control.
Pacific cod and Pacific halibut are taken both as a target species in direct fisheries and as bycatch in other fisheries for bottom fish species. Fishing gear used are bottom and mid-water trawls, longlines, pound and purse seines, and Danish seines.
The management areas in waters under Russian fishery jurisdiction in the Far East are divided into several fishery zones and subzones with specific names as codes (see the map below).
Fisheries management zones/subzones in the Russian Far East Fisheries Basin (Russian EEZ, FAO Statistical Area 61)
Large-scale demersal longline fishing occurs mostly in the western part of the Bering Sea, the Pacific Ocean waters of Kamchatka, and the Sea of Okhotsk.
Fishing is open all year long, although some zones and subzones may be closed on a seasonal basis in order to protect spawning grounds or sensitive habitat and species. Typically, the fishery targets Pacific cod during the winter months in deeper waters and Pacific halibut during the summer months in shallower waters.
Approximately 30–40 longline vessels are registered in the Russian Far East. Usually each vessel makes two 6-months fishing trips. Fishing vessels are supported on the fishing grounds by transport vessels that provide supplies and transport catch to ports in Russia. Most of those vessels produce headed, gutted, frozen-at-sea product, which is often subsequently shipped to China for further processing.
Vessels deploy standard O. Mustad & Son AS (Mustad) longline gear or a similar gear with streamers to reduce bycatch of birds. Some vessels use Marco Marine Seattle longline gear (Marco).
Currently, the West Bering Sea zone (including the Chukotka Sea) and Karaginsky and Petropavlovsk-Komandor subzones are areas prime interest for Pacific cod fishing for this FIP. For Pacific halibut, areas of prime interest are the West Bering Sea zone and Karaginsky subzone.
The stock of Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) in the FIP’s fishing areas of prime interest is considered to be at a stable level and slowly growing, and is not considered to be either over- or underfished.
In general, stock assessment is based on data collected in bottom trawl census surveys. Analytical assessments of Pacific cod stocks using a precautionary approach (cohort-based model “synthesis” and virtual population analysis (VPA)) are applied now for at least the West Bering Sea zone and Karaginsky subzone. Survey and/or assessment data appear to support this view, with strong biomass increases in the West Bering Sea and Karaginsky, and above average biomass in the Petropavlovsk-Komandor subzone.
The Pacific cod fishery in the Western Bering Sea began in the late 1960s, increasing rapidly to its peak in 1971 with catches of 91,600 metric tons, and leading to the depletion of the fishery and no targeted catches in the latter half of the 1970s. From the 1980s, the stock condition improved and catches climbed to a stable level around 40–60,000 metric tons by the early 1990s. Natural environmental processes are believed to have led to decreases in abundance in the following years, and catches remained mostly stable at a lower level between 18,000 and 29,000 metric tons even as the stock has increased in size.
The largest catches were recorded in the Karaginsky subzone with the maximum catches in this area of about 34,000 metric tons in 1984. From the early 1990s, the stock experienced a decline and catches have since varied between 7,000 and 27,000 metric tons. In recent years, a rapid stock growth has been observed in surveys and analytical assessments.
In both fishing areas (West Bering Sea zone and Karaginsky subzone), stock assessment is based on data from periodical trawl surveys and catch per unit effort (CPUE) fleet reports. Fish biological data required for the assessment come from scientific surveys. In recent years, however, stock assessment is often hampered by the occasional absence of annual surveys and also by a lack of standard stock assessment methodologies and fisheries management based on precautionary approach (i.e., the use of biological reference points (BRP) and harvest control rules (HCR)). Therefore, from time to time, stock estimation and determination of TAC tend to rely on the historical series of stock data, fisheries statistics, and professional expertise. For this reason, the FIP workplan includes implementation of standard and modern stock assessment methodologies as one of its important objectives.
Pacific halibut of the West Bering Sea zone is considered to be a part of a super-population inhabiting both western and eastern part of the Bering Sea. Therefore, Russian scientists also take into account data published by the International North Pacific Halibut Commission.
Catches of Pacific halibut in the past 10 years varied from 1,430 to 2,555 metric tons, with an average annual catch of 1,960 metric tons. The 2013 catch of 2,555 metric tons is the highest in recent years. The stock status is considered to be stable with some indication of growth. In recent years, however, there were no abundant year-classes of Pacific halibut recorded in either part of the Bering Sea.
In the Karaginsky subzone, no consistent surveys were undertaken in recent years for the both shelf and continental slope areas. However, based on the estimations conducted by Russian scientists, the stock level is considered to be stable with its biomass at a level of 5,000 metric tons.
At present, responsibilities for the governance of marine biological resources and their fisheries in Russia resides with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Fisheries Agency (FFA), which is a subordinate to the Ministry. The latter has in its structure fisheries research institutes and the Centre for Fisheries Monitoring and Communication. All main fisheries control and enforcement tasks are performed by State Maritime Inspection of the Border Guard Service (Federal Security Service).
However, comprehensive details of stock assessments continue to be not readily available in the public domain because such information is often regarded as confidential and/or commercially sensitive. The situation has started to change recently with publication in open-to-public sources of materials used to substantiate TAC (TAC-2013, TAC-2014 and TAC-2015 public hearing materials). Following the stock assessment prepared by regional research institutes, TAC advice is considered on regional public hearings and by VNIRO fisheries research institute in Moscow. A compilation of scientific advice and recommended levels of TACs is then subject to third-party ecological expertise conducted under the auspice of the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environment. Once approved after the expert review, TACs are then formally set by an Order of the Ministry of Agriculture. The quotas are allocated among the fishing companies based on the approved TAC. Copies of the documents setting TACs and allocating quotas are available in the public domain.
TACs are usually set at scientifically advised levels, but may be altered during the fishing season depending on the fishing pattern or new data. Any further changes in the TAC levels should also be subjected to an environmental expertise.
Official statistics indicate the catches of Pacific cod are usually lower than TACs and comprise about 75–80% of TAC. Poaching has been reported as a general problem in Russian Far Eastern fisheries. It has some impact on fishing for Pacific cod and Pacific halibut as well. Although a national plan to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is adopted, its comprehensive implementation is still at initial stage of development. However, in recent years a number of important improvements to the system of fisheries monitoring and control have been already implemented.
Environment and biodiversity impacts
There is substantial evidence of the impact of longline fishing gears on seabird populations in the Kamchatka region, namely on the red-legged kittiwake, an endemic Bering Sea species listed in the Red Data Book of Russia and classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, and also on fulmars and albatrosses. Harvesting of rare and endangered species listed in the Russian Red Book is prohibited according to the fisheries regulations. Humpback whales, narwhals, ribbon seals, Northern fur seals, and orcas feed on cod, albeit not exclusively, and among these, fur seals are classified by IUCN as “vulnerable.”
Compared to trawl fisheries, longline fisheries have, in general, better selectivity and reduced bycatch of undersized fish and bottom organisms. However the problem of seabirds taking bait during longline gear setting and being hooked is well known.
In situ studies of longline impacts on benthic communities are not known, but in general this gear type has low impacts on bottom habitats.
The Western Bering Sea is a more active ecosystem on the lower trophic levels, with higher primary and secondary production compared to the Eastern Bering Sea, the former having higher production per unit area. The reasons for this difference is probably related to the narrower Western shelf having a larger percentage of its area associated with the high production area along the shelf break.
The Global International Waters Assessment, carried out in 2006 for the Oyashio current (Kuril Islands), considered the impacts of destructive ﬁshing practices to be slight.
Spatial closures are mostly related to bottom trawling, but no fishing is permitted around rookeries of otters, Steller sea lions, and seals.
Launching the FIP
The LFA was established in March 2013 with the purpose to unite the interests of Russian fishing companies involved in longline fisheries. Development and conduct of sustainable fisheries in Russia, in particular, in longline fishing for Pacific cod and Pacific halibut, is one of the LFA objectives.
In October 2012, representatives from a number of longline fishing companies, now members of LFA, met with SFP and discussed establishment of a fishery improvement project for longline fisheries of Pacific cod in the Far East Fisheries Basin. After the LFA was established, FIP development was initiated and the FIP was launched on 31 May 2013. Pacific halibut fisheries were added to the FIP in August 2014. Target longline fisheries for both species take place in the same fishing areas, but in different seasons and at different depth. Therefore, the main objective of the FIP now is to improve longline fisheries for Pacific cod and Pacific halibut in order to meet criteria for sustainable fisheries. The final goal is to prepare fisheries for possible MSC certification.
In the RFE Fisheries Basin, the LFA companies operate 17 longline fishing vessels. All vessels are registered in Russia and fly the Russian flag.
The LFA has its offices registered in Vladivostok and Moscow (Russia).
In June 2013, LFA developed and published its first workplan for 2013–2014. The following tasks were completed in 2013:
- Developed and adopted LFA corporate sustainable fishery policy and a code of conduct
- Established working cooperation on fisheries improvement with Fisheries Agency research institutes: TINRO, KamchatNIRO, and VNIRO
- Developed a special vessel logbook for recording data on various types of bycatch, discards, and the use of streamer lines to avert seabird bycatch.
The current FIP workplan for 2014–2016 is appended.
In January 2014, The LFA website (http://www.longline.ru) was launched. Some of its pages are still under development.
In February, a framework agreement was signed with WWF RU in support of environmentally responsible fishing and, in particular, on “joint participation in projects to reduce the impact on vulnerable marine ecosystems.”
An analytical review was commissioned and received from TINRO on the current status of Pacific cod resources, their management, and fisheries environmental impact, including identification of potential gaps in some data sets, which would require further work.
In cooperation with fisheries institutes and WWF RU, work was initiated on deployment of scientific observers on board LFA vessels for the collection of data on bycatch, discards, and the use of streamer lines to avert seabird bycatch.
LFA vessel masters attended a series of workshops on the conduct of sustainable fisheries and sustainability criteria involved.
The status of scientific observers on board LFA fishing vessels was drafted and jointly agreed by LFA and WWF Russia.
LFA developed and implemented observer logbooks, in particular for recording not only various types of bycatch but also information on deploying streamer lines and their performance in the reduction of seabird bycatch.
The first two scientific observers were deployed on board LFA vessels fishing for Pacific cod and Pacific halibut in the West Bering Sea zone and Chukotka Sea. In addition to collecting data on bycatch and performing observer tasks, in particular, activities included collecting fish samples for genetic studies of Pacific cod population structure.
A joint meeting with the Fishery Agency and its fisheries institutes was held at the VNIRO research institute, Moscow. The Fishery Agency reaffirmed its continued support to industry initiatives in fisheries improvements aimed at their sustainability, including provision of public access to information on stock assessment and fisheries management.
LFA conducted a test of a new seabird-scaring device (“Sea Bird Saver”) developed by “Mustad” (Norway).
TINRO research institute (Vladivostok) published a field identification guide for Far East fish species. LFA plans to provide two copies of the identification guide to each of its fishing vessels.
A pilot project on collecting fishery ecosystem impact data by scientific observers deployed on board LFA vessels was successfully completed; data collected are to be analyzed. In 2014, a total of seven scientific observers worked on board six of LFA’s 15 fishing vessels and collected data during a total of about 470 vessel/days.
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.
LFA participated at the RFE Whitefish Supply Chain Roundtable meeting held in March 2015 in conjunction with the Seafood Expo North America (formerly Boston Seafood Show), and presented an update on current FIP work and future plans.
LFA membership expanded to include a number of companies from the Russian Far East and Northern Fisheries Basins (see complete list in LFA Membership section, above).
In December, LFA held its third sustainability workshop in Patropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in cooperation with WWF RU and Kamchatka State Technical University (KSTU). During the workshop, an agreement was reached with KSTU to introduce a special fisheries observer course for their students. The KSTU graduates will be recruited by LFA to work onboard longline fishing vessels.
January – March
In March, LFA participated in the RFE Whitefish Supply Chain Roundtable meeting held in conjunction with the Seafood Expo North America (formerly Boston Seafood Show), and presented an update on current FIP work and future plans. The presentation focused on the application of the precautionary approach in Pacific cod stock assessment, continued collection of observer data from onboard LFA vessels, use of paired streamer lines on all vessels to deter seabirds from the area of setting longlines, and plans for entering the full MSC certification process by the end of 2016.
LFA also confirmed their plans to assume FIP leadership in 2016 by the time preparation of full certification documents are initiated.
On 30 March 2015, the Fisheries Agency conducted open discussions of the scientific recommendations for the TAC for 2017. Representatives of the fishing industry, NGOs, and media participated. In particular, the TACs recommended for Pacific cod in the West Bering Sea and Chukotka Sea areas were increased from 29.5 to 34 thousand tons. An increase is justified by 2011 and 2013 abundant year-classes entering the fishable stock.
During the Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global exhibition in Brussels (26–28 April), LFA signed an agreement with Marine Certification to pursue full MSC certification of the West Bering Sea Pacific cod fishery with Pacific halibut taken as bycatch. A first field visit to Vladivostok by Marine Certification experts is scheduled for September 2016 and the process should be completed in 2017.
FIP Progress Update*:
Indicator of Success
List of Suppliers
FIP is launched (Stage 1)
Sustainability evaluation publicly available
RFE West Bering Sea
MBA Report-Pacific cod
Best practices guidance publicly available
RFE West Bering Sea
Fisheries Improvement recommendations publicly available
RFE West Bering Sea
LFA identified initial improvement needs
LFA/SFP MOU signed
FIP report published
FIP is formed (Stage 2)
Suppliers are organized
RFE West Bering Sea
FIP public report published
Suppliers are evaluating this fishery
RFE West Bering Sea
LFA cooperative surveys with fisheries institutes
FIP is encouraging improvements (Stage 3)
Workplan with annual improvement milestones publicly available
RFE West Bering Sea
Suppliers are engaging regulators
RFE West Bering Sea
Regulatory bodies confirmed FIP support
Fisheries Agency/ Fisheries institutes/
Joint meeting with regulatory bodies
FIP/fisheries delivering improvement in policies or practices (Stage 4)
Fishery is achieving agreed annual improvement milestones
RFE West Bering Sea
voluntary pilot project
Bird-scaring streamers deployed
2014 fishing season
Fisheries policy changed
RFE West Bering Sea
NPOA implementation approved
Fisheries practices changed
RFE West Bering Sea
Voluntary observer system/
collection of habitat impact data
Improvements undertaken/required publicized
Institute course for scientific observers
2014 fishing season/
continued in 2016
The fishery management system is more precautionary
RFE West Bering Sea
Stock assessment based on precautionary approach introduced for cod
2014 and kept updated
Fisheries regulatory bodies/LFA
Managers are following scientific advice more closely
RFE West Bering Sea
Annual TAC recommendations/public hearings
Annual TAC publication
annually in April
annually in October
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Agency
* Whenever available, references given to documents in English, otherwise they are in Russian.