Russia’s contribution to a more sustainable fishery industry

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August 15, 2014
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Photo of canned fish products on the shelves of a Moscow supermarket.
Canned fish products on the shelves of a Moscow supermarket. © Maksim Blinov; RIA Novosti

Russia has one of the world’s 10 most important fishery industries with an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 7.6 million km² that provides access to one of the world’s largest sea territories. thinkRUSSIA investigates what trends and initiatives are developing to help better sustain fisheries in Russia.

In 2013 Russia fished a total of 4.13 million tons of fish, approximately one tenth of which were fished with licenses in other country catch areas. But in order to enhance its global competitiveness, Russia’s fishery industry began a major modernization program in 2012 which will last until 2020. Initiated by the Russian government, this €2.25 million revamp seeks to accelerate industry modernization and maximize yields by 50 percent to reach up to 6 million tons of fish per year, as well as to ensure better sustainability and improve government agency controls. In recent years Russia has recognized the need for a more sustainable fishery industry in order to maintain the ocean’s fish stocks as an important food source and offer fish products of high quality that can compete on the market where customers increasingly demand sustainably fished products.

Setting international standards

In July 2014, German companies Followfish and Fish & More as well as Russian companies Fish-Ka and Volna set a milestone in sustainable fishing in Russia by starting the first MSC evaluation for their joint perch fishery. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) provides certifications for sustainability and well management in the fishery industry. The main market for perch from Russia is Canada and Switzerland, and the demand on the Russian market is, however, smaller. Fish-ka and Volna have both been working towards achieving more sustainable fisheries since 2008.  With the MSC certification, it is expected that demand within Russia will increase due to higher qualitative standards of their redfin perch. 

Furthermore, a public project to save the Pollock was launched in Sakhalin, the world’s biggest catch area for Pollock, by seeking to comply with fishing regulation to stabilize the stock. Using satellite images to fight illegal fishing and water pollution, the project has so far managed to reduce the use of badly cast fishing nets by 13 percent which raises hope that there is room for even greater improvements.

The Russian Pollock Sustainability Alliance led by the Pollock Catchers Association (PCA), a union of Russian fishery companies, with 39 members and the support of leading European and U.S. buyers, is also working towards a more sustainable fishery industry. For example the certification process for the Sea of Okhotsk Pollock certification unit was completed in 2013, providing the fishery with the much valued MSC certification. The current members of the Russian Pollock Sustainability Alliance (RPSA) include leading brands, processors and buyers of fish products from across the world including:

  • Delmar
  • Frosta
  • Gorton’s
  • High Liner Foods
  • Iglo Foods Group
  • Pickenpack
  • Royal Greenland
  • Young’s Group
  • PCA.

Nicolas Guichoux, MSC Global Commercial Director is pleased with the recent initiatives of the Russian fishery industry which is one of the world’s most important fish suppliers.  Once the certification process is completed, Iglo group, one of the most important members of the Russian Pollock Sustainability Association and who receives its Pollock from the Sea of Okhotsk will have 80 percent MSC certified fish in supply.

One other positive example of fishery sustainability in Russia has to do with the caviar industry. Due to extreme overfishing and illegal exploitation, the Russian government banned the export of caviar in 2007. Thanks to this, beluga was saved from extinction. Since 2011 and thanks to additional investments by the Russian government, and better controls as well as the establishment of beluga farms, wild beluga stocks have stabilized which now allows the export of a 150 kg per year of caviar to Europe.

Do you think Russia is going in the right direction to preserve its fisheries? Leave a comment below.

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