The Russian Sea of Okhotsk pollock fishery is now formally certified under the MSC standard.

Commenting on the news, Jim Cannon, Chief Executive Officer for SFP, said: “Sustainable Fisheries Partnership would like to congratulate the Pollock Catchers Association, the Russian Pollock Sustainability Alliance and everyone involved in ensuring the sustainability of the Russian pollock fishery.  This achievement would not have been possible without important improvements to the fishery and fisheries management spearheaded by PCA. We look forward to working with the PCA and all stakeholders to implement the Action Plan to address identified conditions for the Sea of Okhotsk fishery, and progress assessments and improvements in the Western Bering Sea and Navarinsky pollock fisheries.” SFP hosted the first Russian Far East Pollock Roundtable meeting in 2006, and the Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) was formed later that year. In 2008 a formal Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) was launched, with participation by leading seafood companies, PCA and SFP. The fishery entered full MSC assessment that same year. Key improvement measures included the voluntary reduction of the pollock roe fishery by the PCA members in 2008.

The following year, the Russian government introduced legislation that required all pollock quota holders to follow suit, and stepped up enforcement efforts. These measures significantly reduced illegal fishing, which together with other management measures, helped rebuild and protect the fish stocks. The PCA formally joined the FIP in 2010. By 2011, with strong encouragement from SFP, industry had effectively taken over leadership of the effort, and the original FIP was dissolved. In 2012, several FIP participants formed the Russian Pollock Sustainability Alliance to support certification and improvement efforts. 

The fishery was recommended for certification in January 2013 following a lengthy assessment process. Formal objections were subsequently filed by the At-sea Processors Association (APA) and WWF. The WWF objection was later withdrawn following negotiations with PCA that led to an enhanced Action Plan to address certain issues. Last week, following a thorough review of the assessment documents and additional information, an Independent Adjudicator ruled that the fishery had met all substantive and procedural requirements to be certified.  The certification also has broader implications for the global seafood sector. It paves the way for fishery improvement projects and/or certification in other globally significant fisheries in Russia, including wild salmon, crab and other whitefish. It also reaffirms the importance of MSC certification for the global marketplace and highlights the critical role the supply chain plays in catalyzing, supporting and leading improvement efforts.