Final MSC decision made on Russia pollock fishery

Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk pollock fishery has been cleared to be certified to the Marine Stewardship Council standard as a sustainable and well-managed fishery.

Independent Adjudicator (IA) Michael Lodge on Monday released his final decision in the objection filed by the At-Sea Processors Association (APA) in the fishery, and accepted the responses of the Conformity Assessment Body (CAB).

Consistent with MSC requirements, the CAB will have to submit its amended report to Lodge to confirm that the changes made during the objection process are correctly reflected. Once that happens, the public certification report will be published and the CAB will certify the fishery.

“The objection process is completely independent of the Marine Stewardship Council and underscores the impartially and scientific rigor of the MSC program,” said Dr. David Agnew, MSC standards director. “WWF and APA objected to the certification. WWF withdrew its objection earlier in the year, following changes made to the fishery’s plans for data collection. As a result of the additional work required by the Independent Adjudicator under the APA objection, the scientific basis of the determination has been improved and the client action plan further strengthened. With this final decision, the CAB and independent adjudicator have determined that the fishery passes the MSC standard. MSC recognizes the importance of the contributions made by all parties and their commitment to sustainable fisheries.”

After reviewing the comments of the peer reviewer and objector the CAB decided to further amend condition 2 and client action plan to require a strengthening of the monitoring and observer program. The public certification report will require a written analysis within a year to demonstrate coverage, consistency and accuracy of the records of landings and, if needed, to develop a plan to address any shortcomings.  Further, the written analysis is to be prepared by a working group that includes the Russia Federal Fish Agency, Russian fishery research institutes, and internationally recognized experts, among others.

“These increased requirements add to the changes generated as a result of the WWF objection, and will act to improve the quality of information available to the fishery in the future,” said MSC.

APA said it is disappointed with the news that Lodge reversed his earlier opinion that the fishery was not properly assessed.

“Our objection was clearly warranted as evidenced by the adjudicator’s initial agreement that the certification body failed to support its scores on fully one-quarter of all measures by which the fishery was evaluated,” said Jim Gilmore, APA director of public affairs.

“Notwithstanding the adjudicator’s decision, we do not believe that the case for certification is made, and APA continues to have major questions about the management system for Russia SOO pollock.  Our objection focused on the fact that the MSC standard required the Russia SOO pollock fishery to demonstrate better catch accounting and more precautionary setting of catch levels. APA also called for stronger evidence that the fishery is minimizing impacts on the environment before being certified, as required under the MSC program.  

“Companies truly committed to sustainability should be aware that in this case MSC certification has been granted to a fishery that only has a plan to be sustainable and has yet to prove it, unlike the Alaska pollock fisheries which have been managed sustainably for over 35 years. We will monitor the progress the Russia SOO pollock fishery must make to satisfy the numerous conditions placed on it in order to keep its certification.”

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