First king crab fishery achieves MSC certification in Russia

Published on
February 23, 2018

The Russian red king crab fishery in the Barents Sea has claimed the first ever king crab to achieve certification from the Marine Stewardship Council.

The Association of Crab Catchers of North, comprised of 10 crab vessels fishing with traps, holds the entire quota for commercial red king crab in Russia’s exclusive economic zone. In 2015, the last year for which data is available, its total red king crab catch was 6,381 metric tons.

“To become certified, it was crucial that the fishery demonstrate a high level of management and, in particular, explicit harvest control rules,” Camiel Derichs, MSC’s regional director for Europe, said in a press release. “This will hopefully encourage other king crab fisheries to enter assessment. Consumers around the world can now trust that red king crab sold with the MSC label is independently certified as sustainable. We look forward to seeing the first MSC-labeled red king crab products from this fishery on the shelves soon.”

The fishery was certified after an assessment by independent certifier Acoura Marine. The red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) is also known as the Kamchatka crab or Alaskan king crab and is native to the Okhotsk and Japan seas, the Bering Sea and the northern Pacific Ocean, but was introduced to the Barents Sea by Soviet fishery scientists between 1961 and 1969, according to MSC.  Red king crab is now common in the southern Barents Sea shelf from northern Norway in the west to Kolguev Island in the east, and the crab stock has been commercially fished in Russia since 2004, MSC said. The main markets for red king crab are the United States, China, Southeast Asia, the European Union, and Russia.

Sergey Nesvetov, the executive director of North West Fishing Consortium , which operates several vessels belonging to the Association of Crabs Catchers of North, said the certification process helped the association and his company improve their practices.

“The work on this project has helped us to improve the management systems both inside our organization and in our fisheries,” he said. “Through the process of becoming MSC certified, we now better understand the environmental impacts of our activities.”

Nesvetov backed the so-called “historical principle” currently being used to set quotas in Russia.

“I would like to emphasize that the existing fishery management system in Russia, fixing quotas for biological resources for bona fide users, encourages fishermen to take good care of the resource, considering the stock status as a key element of sustainable, long-term business development,” he said.

Following on its success, the association has initiated a pre-assessment of the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) fishery in the Barents Sea, also with Acoura Marine. 

“We have no doubt that our experience and competence gained in the MSC process will allow us to successfully complete this project,” Nesvetov said.

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