Russian antimonopoly watchdog suspects pollock catchers of violating competition law

Published on
February 8, 2021

Russia’s antitrust regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), has opened a case against the Pollock Catchers Association (PCA) and several of its members over allegedly anticompetitive conduct.

The plaintiff in the case is the Russian Fishery Company (RFC), which has been in conflict with PCA since late last year, when it was ousted from the association

According to FAS case documents, the PCA possibly violated a clause in section 11 of Russia’s federal law regulating competition, Vedomosti reported. The clause prohibits businesses or business associations from blocking companies' market access.

The FAS has not announced a hearing date, or the size or type of the potential penalty the defendents face. The agency declined to comment on the case.

Besides the PCA, the other defendants in the case are Ozernovsky Fish Canning Plant No. 55, Nakhodka Active Marine Base, Sakhalinrybaksoyuz, Okeanrybflot, Sofco, Sakhalin Island, Dalryba, Poseydon, Kuril Fisherman, Mercury, Poronay, New World, Transit, Rybolovetskiy kolhoz, Tralflot, Pilenga, Preobrazhenskaya Pacific Fleet Base, and Pacific Fishery Company.

RFC's complaint is an escalation of an ongoing dispute between the company and the PCA over the expulsion of RFC from the association. The conflict began last summer, when RFC urged the Russian government to initiate radical reforms to the national fishing sector. The outcome its proposal, critics said, would be the redistribution of fishing rights favoring highly capitalized companies, while companies without access to financing would be stripped of quotas. PCA concluded the RFC’s proposals harm the association’s members overall, and made the decision to oust RFC’s subsidiaries from the organization.

That expulsion resulted in the temporary suspension of RFC’s Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, as the PCA is the MSC’s client group in Russia.

The RFC immediately responded with two separate actions. First, it sucessfully challenged the PCA’s decision in court, though the PCA has appealed that decision. And RFC brought an official complaint to the FAS.

“The decision by PCA to exclude the company from the association led to the impossibility for us to use the MSC certificate," RFC told SeafoodSource. "In October 2020, RFC filed a complaint at FAS. The service decided that the signs of violation of the competition legislation exist and opened the case."

Last month, RFC temporarily regained the right to use the MSC eco-label and said it will be pursuing an MSC certification outside of the PCA client group.

PCA President Alexei Buglak told Fishnews the association asked FAS for a full description of RFC’s accusations, saying the public complaint did not clearly specify what the alleged violations entailed. 

Additionally, Buglak alleged that RFC “had launched a media campaign accusing PCA and its members of a cartel agreement trying to influence government bodies," even before the PCA decided to oust RFC's subsidiaries from its membership. 

Photo courtesy of Russian Fishery Company

Reporting from Saint Petersburg, Russia

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