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West Bering Sea Russian Pollock enters MSC assessment

The Western Bering Sea Pollock fishery in the Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) in the Navarinsky area of the Bering Sea is being assessed to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Fisheries Standard by Lloyd’s Register.

The independent assessor will assess stocks of pollock in the West Bering Sea, the environmental impact of mid-water trawling, and the effectiveness of the fishery’s management system. The assessment is expected to conclude in June 2021.

The PCA’s mid-water trawl pollock fishery in the Sea of Okhotsk is already certified to the MSC Standard. It achieved this in September 2013 and was successfully re-certificated in 2018, demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and well-managed fishing operations. The certified fishery represents 43% of all Russian Pollock catch, leaving 57% of Russian catch not MSC certified.

MSC’s Program Development Director, Camiel Derichs said: “I’m delighted that the Pollock Catchers Association’s West Bering sea pollock fishery has now entered MSC assessment, driving the proportion of Russian pollock fisheries engaged in the MSC program to new highs. The improvements the PCA has worked on with other stakeholders in Russia over several years now gives the fishery confidence to be publicly assessed against the MSC standards by an accredited third partly team of experts. We wish PCA all the best during the independent assessment process.”

The Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) was established in 2006 and is one of the largest associations in the Russian fishing industry. It includes 26 companies employing more than 12,000 people and has 90 fishing and processing vessels. It catches roughly 1.6 million tonnes of fish and seafood per year.

PCA members primarily fish for pollock (Theragra chalcogramma / Gadus chalcogrammus) in the Far Eastern seas. PCA enterprises reports it has 63% of the pollock catch (about 1.1 million tonnes in 2019) in Russia, which is about 32% of the catch around the world.

The Bering Sea is the second most significant fishing area for pollock in Russia, after the Sea of Okhotsk. Pollock harvesting is allowed year-round in the Bering Sea, except during the spring spawning period when fisheries are closed. The total allowable catch (TAC) of pollock in the West Bering Sea has been set at roughly 390,000 tonnes for 2020.

The fishery has carried out research on the impacts of marine mammals, and this year will include research on the impact on birds. The PCA fishery has also invested in a project to modernise fishing gears and if successful, fisheries may be able to become even more selective and avoid unwanted catch from the target stocks.

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