Russian Fisheries Make Strides on Road to Sustainability

We’re back from the Russian Far East, and with good news to report!

On the ground with Vityaz-Avto Ltd. and Delta Ltd, two Russian fishing companies based in Kamchatka, we witnessed the hard won results of more than six years of collaborations with fishermen to better understand and protect these globally important salmon fisheries. Wild salmon stocks have rebounded, management actions are improving, and the fishery is being recognized as a global leader in sustainability.

As the West Kamchatka salmon fishery moves towards its final stage of MSC certification, here are a few key highlights from this past year:

  • KamchatNIRO, a regional fisheries research agency issued a 141 page report that provides critical foundational information necessary for managing salmon runs (i.e. stock status, run timing). This research provided new information about Chinook salmon whose stocks have been very low and will help commercial salmon fishermen target more abundant species and avoid impacts on Chinook. The research also showed that Chinook salmon escapements have been increasing since a ban on commercial retention was implemented by KamchatNIRO in 2010. Most excitingly, the report included updated spawner-recruit analyses which resulted in revised and more river-specific escapement goals for salmon species, which will be in place this fishing season.

  • Independent third party observer programs confirmed; limited sea lion bycatch and compliance in regards to firearm prohibition; beach seines and set nets were operated within legal fishing parcels, and only during legal fishing periods; active enforcement efforts have minimized the incidence of illegal fishing on the Opala and Ozernaya rivers.

Russian Fisheries Observed Fishing parcels monitored by independent observers in the past year.

In the MSC-certified Ozernaya sockeye salmon fishery, we participated in the annual MSC audit, where independent third party auditors documented the progress the fishery has made closing 8 of 9 conditions of their certification. To close these conditions independent observers gathered information on bycatch and retained species, and shared it with the auditors and stakeholders. The fishery clients continued support and finance of anti-poaching activities in the region; they scanned and checked some parts of the river every few days. Another year of Independent third party observer programs was planned to continue verifying the fishery is fishing only where permitted, only on permitted days, and without the presence of firearms aboard vessels. The fishery is on track to complete the last condition on schedule.

Ozernaya Sockeye Salmon MSC Site Visit O2 staff participate in the annual MSC audit, which takes place to verify fishermen, seen in the background, are making progress on committments.

This progress towards increased supplies of sustainable seafood should be celebrated. Seafood is a rapidly evolving and complex socio-economic industry, often accompanied by negative headlines of overfishing, poaching, and human rights abuse. Successes like these are a fresh breath of air and should be highlighted so the relatively nascent sustainable seafood movement can continue to grow. Patience and perseverance are key to making progress on the long road to sustainability.