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Salmon Fishery in Russia Earns MSC Certification

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RUSSIA - The North East Sakhalin Island pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) fishery on Russias east coast has been awarded Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification after independent auditor MRAG determined the fishery meets the MSC standard as a sustainable and well-managed fishery. The pink salmon harvested from this fishery may now display the blue MSC ecolabel.

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This is the third fishery in Russia to earn MSC certification. The Iturup Island pink and chum salmon fishery became certified in September of 2009 and the Barents Sea cod and haddock fishery, managed jointly between Russia and Norway, achieved certification in 2010. Four other fisheries in Russia are currently in full assessment.

The fishery occurs in FAO statistical area 61, along the east coast of Sakhalin Island in the Nogliki and Smirnykh districts. Commercial salmon fishing has been conducted on Sakhalin Island since the beginning of the 20th Century.

The assessment encompassed all companies fishing in the two regions, but use of the certificate will apply only to the companies that have agreed to a certificate sharing arrangement with the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center and the Sakhalin Regional Fisheries Association. This client group of fishers organised in part as a result of efforts to demonstrate to markets their sustainable practices in contrast to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices attributed to this region.

The companies in the certified client group primarily use coastal trap nets to fish for pink salmon. A minority of the companies use diverse gear types such as river weirs, beach seines, and floating gillnets. Coastal trap nets are considered passive since the nets are set in a single location for fish to swim into, and thus catch per net set varies depending on the intensity and strength of any particular run in that locale.

The annual pink salmon harvest in the Nogliki and Smirnykh regions has averaged 5,407 metric tonnes from 2001 to 2010. The market for the fish is mainly confined to domestic consumption but there has been increased interest from US and Europe.

Sergei Didenko of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center says: MSC certification for our pink salmon is part of a change in momentum for fishing practices in the Russian Far East. We firmly believe this step will lead to solidifying markets in Russia along with opening up new markets in other parts of the world, and all while perpetuating fishing jobs in our region.

The certification of NE Sakhalin Island pink salmon is an important indication of a growing commitment to sustainable fishing in the Russian Far East, said Kerry Coughlin, MSC Regional Director, Americas. We welcome them into the group of MSC certified fisheries and are encouraged that other Russian fisheries will see the benefits and, along with the four currently in assessment, will pursue certification.