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Key Russian Fishery Joins Sustainability Lobby

RUSSIA - Russia's influential Alaska or Walleye Pollock Catchers Association (PCA), one of the governing bodies responsible for one of the most important whitefish fishery in the world, will join WWF in lobbying government to change fishery policy and management that will result in a sustainable fishery.

After a meeting held on February 21st between WWF Russia and the PCA, the Association agreed to begin lobbying for the adoption of governmental policies to place independent fishery observers onboard trawling vessels, the adoption of WWF Russia proposals into the Russian National Strategy on fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fisheries, the signing of the bi-lateral port control agreement with Japan and China, and establishing a fishery protection zone in the Sea of Okhotsk.

“This is a very important first step”, said Alfred Schumm, Leader of WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative. “But it is one that has to be followed by substantial commitments and obligations. The most critical commitment is for the Pollack fishery to ensure it uses fishing methods that do not destroy habitats, in particular, unsustainable bottom touching gear, and minimize their bycatch.”

These commitments and obligations by the fishers must also include: observers on board the associations’ boats, vessel monitoring and traceability measures, binding agreements for new closed or protected areas, sustainable total allowable catches for the target fish and for bycatch, and discard stop, all accompanied by ambitious timelines.

The Association also agreed that it is necessary to create a fund to finance the transfer to improved vessel monitoring measures, to develop and adopt methodology on IUU catch assessments in conjunction with the Russian Federal Fishery Agency, the Russian Coast Guard, the Russian Customs Service and independent experts, and to assess capacity of the Russian Far East fishing fleet versus available fish stocks to avoid fleet over-capacity.

United States-Alaskan Pollock fisheries, have received Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification; however the Russian Pollock fishery is not yet ready for successful certification. The lobbying efforts that the PCA have now committed to are positive steps towards rectifying this situation and then moving ahead with MSC certification.

“It is a very important break-through to obtain MSC certification for the Russian Pollock fishery and make necessary changes “on the water” in Russia,” said Konstantin Zgurovsky, Marine Programme Coordinator for WWF Russia. “The Association is now ready to work on the necessary improvements and recognises WWF Russia as a key partner in fisheries improvement projects.”

The Russian Fishery Agency with support from the Association and WWF plans a public workshop about MSC fishery and MSC chain-of-custody certification for all relevant parties to be held in May 2011.

the Fish Site Editor

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