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The vessel “Nikolskiy” belonging to North-West Crab Catching Company Ltd.

The vessel “Nikolskiy” belonging to North-West Crab Catching Company Ltd.

Russian red king crab fishery is MSC certified in world first

Feb 23, 2018

MOSCOW, Russia – The Russian Red King Crab fishery in the Barents Sea has become the first king crab fishery in the world to achieve MSC certification as a sustainable and well-managed fishery. The certification was awarded by independent certifier Acoura Marine following a detailed assessment.

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. It was introduced to the Barents Sea by Soviet fishery scientists between 1961 and 1969. Today, this species is common in the southern Barents Sea shelf from northern Norway in the west to Kolguev Island in the east. The crab stock has been commercially fished in Russia since 2004.

The fishery client, Association of Crab Catchers of North, was established in 1992. The certified fishery holds the entire quota for commercial red king crab in Russia’s exclusive economic zone and is comprised of ten crab vessels using traps. Parts of the traps are manufactured of biodegradable material.

Scientists from the Polar Institute of Fishery and Oceanography (PINRO) make annual stock assessments using several independent methods and the total allowable catch is set on the basis of harvest control rules. In the territorial waters of Russia crab fishing is currently banned. The total red king crab catch by this fishery in 2015 was 6381 tonnes.

Red king crab is one of the largest edible crab species in the world. Crabs can grow as large as 28cm with a leg span of up 1.8m and can reach weights of 10 to 15kg. The main markets for red king crab are the USA, China, South-East Asia, the EU and Russia.

“Congratulations to the fishery for becoming the first red king crab fishery in the world to be MSC certified. To become certified it was crucial that the fishery demonstrate a high level of management and, in particular, explicit harvest control rules. 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 labelled red king crab products from this fishery on the shelves soon,” said Camiel Derichs, MSC Regional Director Europe.

Sergey Nesvetov, Executive Director of North West Fishing Consortium said: “Several companies that are part of North-West Fishing Consortium are members of Association of Crabs Catchers of North.  The work on this project has helped us to improve the management systems both inside our organization and in our fisheries. Through the process of becoming MSC certified, we now better understand the environmental impacts of our activities. I would like to emphasize that the existing fishery management system in Russia, fixing quotas for biological resources for bona fide users (the so-called "historical principle"), encourages fishermen to take good care of the resource, considering the stock status as a key element of sustainable, long-term business development. Now we have started a pre-assessment of the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) fishery in the Barents Sea, 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.”

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