Russian Western Bering Sea Pollock MSC Certified

The Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) has gained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for the Russian Western Bering Sea Pollock fishery. This comes after nine months of independent assessment by Lloyd’s Register for compliance with the MSC Fisheries Standard.

The certifying body assessed the mid-water trawl pollock fishery in the Navarinsky area of the Bering Sea (West Bering Sea zone east of the 174th 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 includes 32 companies that employ more than 12,000 people and operate 100 fishing and processing vessels, catching roughly 1.8 million tonnes of fish and seafood per year.

PCA members primarily fish for pollock in the Far Eastern seas. PCA enterprises account for over 75% of the pollock catch in Russia (about 1.4 million tonnes in 2020) and about 40% of the pollock catch around the world.

In September 2013, the PCA obtained MSC certification for the mid-water trawl pollock fishery in its key region – the Sea of Okhotsk. In 2018, the fishery was successfully re-certified, demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and well-managed fishing operations. In March 2021, the scope was also extended to include certification of East Sakhalin pollock.

The certification of the Western Bering Sea Pollock fishery adds 300.000 MT of MSC certified pollock to the PCA total, which, together with Sea of Okhotsk, now adds up to 1 200 000 MT of MSC-eligible pollock overall. These certified fisheries now represent over 65% of all Russian Pollock catch.

In 2010, and again in 2018 the PCA commissioned MSC pre-assessments of its Western Bering Sea pollock fisheries. It operationalised a Fishery Improvement Plan based on that between 2018 and 2020. This enabled the PCA to improve fishing operations in preparation for a full assessment of the fishery to MSC standards.

Alexey Buglak, president of Pollock Catchers Association said: “We are proud to obtain MSC certification for our second largest pollock fishery. Successful certification was preceded by intensive improvement work by PCA. This included targeted scientific surveys to estimate the mid-water trawl fishery’s impact on marine mammals and birds, and enhancement of the observer program’s collection of pollock and non-target bycatch data. It is important for this work to continue and as part of this the PCA have developed an action plan to meet the conditions prescribed by the certification”.

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the Marine Stewardship Council said: ‘We congratulate the PCA with this milestone. The Western Bering Sea Pollock fishery has been working towards MSC certification for many years. As part of this it has delivered necessary improvements to demonstrate compliance with the MSC Fisheries Standard. Its improvement journey will no doubt continue as part of the MSC program.

“The PCA is required to deliver four improvements as a condition of certification, and progress against these will need to be verified by third party auditors throughout the timespan of the certification. These relate to further strengthening the management of non-target species.

“MSC certification offers the most robust assurance of fisheries sustainability available. This certification, and traceability along the supply chain, will enable pollock from this fishery to carry the MSC label to credibly demonstrate to shoppers that the seafood originated from a well-managed fishery. This is great news for markets across the globe’.

Stuart Caborn, Chief Procurement Officer, Nomad Foods said: “As the world’s largest buyer of certified Alaska pollock, we have a key role to play in ensuring the health of fish stocks and ocean habitats. We welcome the MSC certification of the West Bering Sea Alaska Pollock Fishery as another important step in ensuring more fisheries around the world, improve their practices so we can provide consumers with more sustainably sourced fish products.”