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Russian Fishery plans independent MSC pollock certification after PCA expulsion

  • October 01, 2020

Russian Fishery Company (RFC) plans to apply for an independent Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) pollock certification, having been unceremoniously expelled from the industry client group in September. 

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RFC has “already begun preparing an independent direct MSC certification”, a company spokesperson confirmed to Undercurrent News on Thursday, Oct. 1.

Earlier, an MSC spokesperson confirmed to Undercurrent RFC pollock can no longer be sold as certified, after the company’s removal from the Russian Pollock Catchers Association (PCA), which is the MSC client group for the certified Sea of Okhotsk (SOO) fishery. RFC was voted out of the PCA after asking the country’s government for further industry reforms, according to reports in the Russian media. 

The MSC was unable to comment further on how long a possible certification might take. However, Undercurrent understands RFC is yet to formally apply. The MSC did not respond to request for comment on this, however. 

According to sources, the situation could leave a hole in the market. RFC and other Russian fishing companies catch most of the MSC-certified SOO pollock in the first half of the year, but also return to the grounds to catch at the end of November and through December.

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“They [RFC] have 190,000 [metric] tons of quota and supply around 15,000t of MSC fillet blocks, as well as a lot of HG [headed and gutted] pollock that goes to China” and is then sold as MSC-approved double frozen fillets, one Russian pollock sector source told Undercurrent

It would be unlikely RFC could have a certification approved for SOO fishing in the first half of 2021, due to the process for certification to the MSC standard, sources said. 

The SOO fishery makes up around 60% of the total Russian total allowable catch (TAC), so 1.06 million metric tons for 2020 (see all the data on the Undercurrent supply quotas page). The level in the SOO is up just under 100,000t, or around 10%, for 2020. The total 2020 TAC is 1.83m metric tons in 2020, up 1.33% year-on-year.

 On Wednesday, the MSC announced the PCA has entered another part of the fishery into an MSC certification process, the Navarinsky area of the Bering Sea. The evaluation is expected to conclude in June 2021. 

MSC confirmed to Undercurrent the stock under assessment is 275,000t of the TAC of 390,000t for the fishery.

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