Russian fishing firms voluntarily reduce bottom-trawling

Published on
August 26, 2020

Three Russian fishing companies and one trade association have signed an agreement to voluntarily reduce the use of bottom trawls in three zones of the Barents Sea.

The signatories to the agreement are Norebo Group, Arkhangelsk Trawl Fleet (ATF), F.E.S.T. Group, and The Fishing Industry Union of the North, a non-government organization uniting a few dozen fisheries. The agreement, which is open for signing by other parties, is aimed at the protection of vulnerable bottom biotopes. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – one of the drivers of the initiative – identified the vulnerable species in question as corals, sea feathers, and sponges. 

Designed for the sustainability of the Barents Sea’s ecosystem, the signatories agreed to not use bottom trawls, which have a negative impact on the seabed, in three zones totaling 14,000 square miles. Two zones are located in the northern part of the sea, and another one in the southwest. 

Another point of the agreement is vessels of the companies will be recording bottom bycatch to help scientists establish a common database for further analysis, and to help design possible policy measures and recommendations for the protection of biotopes.

There is a mechanism for an independent audit of how the fisheries comply with their voluntarily imposed restrictions. 

At the moment, the agreement applies to 97 vessels, which collectively catch 90 percent of the Arctic cod, haddock, pollock, and Northern shrimp in the Barents Sea. 

"The decision to sign the agreement was not easy, but all the parties understood that the conservation of the healthful and efficient ecosystem of the Barents Sea is the groundwork for the welfare of this and future generations," Norebo Deputy CEO Sergey Sennikov said in a comment published on the company’s website.

F.E.S.T. Group representative Yuri Parshev said “the agreement gives the competing companies a chance to join forces to secure the sustainable future for their businesses.”

Konstantin Drevetnyak, general director of The Fishing Industry Union of the North, noted that “the agreement is the result of the work by the fisheries, WWF and scientific organizations” and is symbol of Russian fisheries' concern for the environment. 

ATF Executive Director Sergey Nesvetov said the move showed his company and other Russian fishing firms are capable of acting responsibly when it comes to preserving the environment and the sustainability of the country's fisheries.

“This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company,” ATF Executive Director Sergey Nesvetov said. “Our plans extend beyond a three-year period, so we are ready to restraints to secure the future of marine resources and the future of our business."

The agreement came into force on 1 August, 2020, and is open for signatures from any party willing to join, regardless of nationality. 

Photo courtesy of Mihashi/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from Saint Petersburg, Russia

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