Pollock Catchers Association

Public Union
of Russian Fishery Companies

«Unfair» pollock price discrimination

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label will stop the "unfair" price discrepancy between Russian and U.S. pollock and open access to new markets, several Russian pollock executives told IntraFish.

Being able to meet the MSC criteria and use the label is like a "ticket" to world fishery markets, Russian Pollock Catchers Association President German Zverev told IntraFish. Part of this "ticket" is the ability to stand toe-to-toe with the U.S. industry. "The MSC label will allow Russian pollock fillets to strengthen position on the European market and eliminate price discrimination regarding fillets made of certified Alaska pollock from the U.S.," said Zverev. It will stop the "unfair discrimination" against the Russian products, a spokesman for Russian fishing firm NBAMR JSC, part of the giant BAMR Roliz Group, told IntraFish. NBAMR operates 17 large-scale fishing trawlers and a transport vessel and catches amount around 150,000 metric tons a year. "The price for Russian and U.S. pollock products will be determined with the quality, not the country of origin," he said. It's clear there is a real shift in mentality within the ranks of the Russian industry with regards to the future possibilities of the pollock fishery. The industry can either "play our own game" not paying "attention to the rest of the world, or we can accept some rules," said Ruslan Telenkov, CEO of Magadanryba Ltd., which owns three fishing vessels and catches 23,000 metric tons of pollock, herring, salmon, northern shrimp a year. "If we decide to become open to the world, such initiatives as MSC certification is necessary and inevitable," he told IntraFish.

Drive toward MSC: The Russian industry is feeling the push from northern European and U.S.-based retailers and seafood firms to move toward MSC-certification. "Today eco-certification is becoming a key element for fishery products at world markets. Many biggest retailing chains, processors and consumers are gradually refusing non-certified fishery products. We are trying to move with the times," said Zverev. Pollock is a species where the MSC label means producers get a better price for their product. "The current situation is that certified fish products cost more than non-certified ones. That's why such certificate is necessary if we want to operate on world markets and get good profits," the NBAMR spokesman told IntraFish.

Good stocks: Stocks of Russian pollock are healthy and the quota is set for an increase in 2010. According to information revealed at the recent Groundfish Forum, the Russian quota will increase 150,000 metric tons to 1.65 million metric tons for 2010. The news from the recent Russian pollock Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) Partnership meeting at the International Fishery Congress in Vladivostok was positive. According to the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), the NGO involved in founding the FIP with BAMR-Roliz and BirdsEye-Iglo Group - along with FRoSTA, Royal Greenland, Findus Group, Pickenpack, Delmar, High Liner and the Fishin' Co. - stocks in the Sea of Okhotsk are healthy. "Highlights of the FIP review included improved transparency in stock assessment methods and data, which confirmed the continued impressive rebuilding of Sea of Okhotsk stocks to well above the target sustainable levels required by the MSC. The rebuilding of the fishery has been aided by conservative TAC setting and reductions in illegal fishing," said the SFP. A detailed report on the status of the Sea of Okhotsk pollock fishery is available at www.fishsource.org.

"Despite this clear progress, a number of critical issues remain unclear or unresolved. These include clarifications of assumptions and statistical testing to improve confidence in the accuracy of stock assessments and the robustness of the management strategy," said the SFP. "Although bycatch in the fishery is reported as relatively low, bycatch monitoring and formal limits on its potential impact may still be required. MSC certification is not certain unless these additional issues are resolved," it said. "We are encouraged to see that the Russian fishery is grasping some of the issues required to achieve certification, but at the same time further measures need to be quickly taken to ensure the fishery comfortably meets the MSC standards," said an spokesman for the industry participants in the FIP. With the desire for change being shown from the Russian industry and major buyers behind the drive, it seems only a matter of time before these changes are instigated. Who knows how soon there could be MSC-certified Russian pollock on the market?

Comments? Email tom.seaman@intrafish.com.

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