Kamchatka sockeye salmon spawning© The Fly Shop

Asia’s Largest Sockeye Fishery Achieves MSC Certification

Asia’s Largest Sockeye Fishery Achieves MSC Certification

MSC label awarded to Kamchatka’s Ozernaya River sockeye fishery.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) announced today that the Ozernaya River sockeye fishery in southwest Kamchatka has been certified as a sustainable fishery and will receive the MSC ecolabel.

This is the first fishery from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to receive the MSC label and follows on the heels of two other certifications of Russian salmon fisheries: the Iturup Island pink and chum salmon fishery and northeast Sakhalin Island’s pink salmon fishery. The Ozernaya sockeye fishery is operated by Vityaz Avto and Delta, two of the largest salmon fishing companies on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Ozernaya Fishery
The Ozernaya MSC certification is the culmination of over three years of work by commercial fishermen in collaboration with the Wild Salmon Center (WSC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) | © Wild Salmon Center

“We are proud to be the first fishing companies on Kamchatka to receive the MSC ecolabel. This certification demonstrates what we knew all along: this is a well-managed and sustainable fishery. We are determined to help it stay that way,” said Aleksandr Tarasov of Delta, Ltd.

Ozernaya sockeye is one of the few salmon runs in Russia that are almost entirely exported. The main market for Ozernaya sockeye is currently in Japan, but interest in the US and European markets is increasing, and a portion of the catch goes to these markets as well.

“We are extremely pleased to hear that the MSC has endorsed the Ozernaya sockeye fishery as a sustainable seafood source for global markets,” says Jason Ogilvie, the President of Pasco Seafood Enterprises Inc., a Canadian importer/marketer and key sponsor of the MSC certification process from its inception in 2010. “This unique and pristine watershed is home to some of the finest sockeye salmon in the world and it is a testament to the World Wildlife Fund and the Wild Salmon Center to recognize, investigate, and support the viability of this resource as a long-term sustainable fishery. It is through their hard work that we can be assured that this wonderful resource will be protected and enjoyed by the global community for years to come. We also applaud the Russian regulatory agencies for their diligence in monitoring and protecting this fishery over the years and we look forward to working closely with the Ozernaya industry to market this world class product in an ecologically sound and responsible manner.”

Sockeye spawn in Kamchatka's Kurill Lake.
Sockeye spawn in Kamchatka’s Kuril Lake | © Wild Salmon Center

The Ozernaya MSC certification is the culmination of over three years of work by commercial fishermen in collaboration with the Wild Salmon Center (WSC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The certification is another signal of the growing wave of Russian salmon fisheries engaging in the MSC assessment process. Currently 20% of Russia’s Pacific salmon fisheries are either MSC certified or in the MSC assessment process. Additional Russian fisheries are in the pipeline, underscoring the strong global demand for MSC certified salmon and Russia’s emerging significance in the global seafood marketplace.

“The Ozernaya sockeye fishery is one of the crown jewels of the global wild salmon fishery. While the fishery’s management isn’t perfect and there is more work to be done, the salient point is that this ecosystem needs to be protected and sustained. Like Bristol Bay in Alaska, the Ozernaya is a wild salmon ecosystem that is too important to lose,” said Brian Caouette of the Wild Salmon Center.

The headwaters of the Ozernaya Watershed are located in the protected Kuril Lake/South Kamchatka Nature Reserve, which safeguards critically important spawning and rearing grounds for wild salmon as well as habitat for grizzly bears, Steller’s sea eagles, and myriad other wildlife. The southwest Kamchatka coast, which includes the Ozernaya, is the most biodiversity-rich region for salmon in the world, including all seven species of Pacific salmon: Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, chum, cherry salmon and steelhead. WSC and WWF have been working in southwest Kamchatka for years, providing financial and technical support for protected area management, anti-poaching brigades, citizen-led local watershed councils, and to promote and help establish sustainable fisheries.

Kamchatka Fishermen
There is growing wave of Russian salmon fisheries engaging in the MSC assessment process | © Wild Salmon Center

“The importance of this certification cannot be overemphasized. This is the first fishery on the Kamchatka Peninsula to incorporate all the elements of sustainability and take it to the global marketplace. If the effort is rewarded, as I believe it will be, Kamchatka will give Alaska a run for their money in terms of ‘wild and sustainable’,” said Denis Semenov of WWF Russia – Kamchatka office.

The 1000-kilometer long Kamchatka Peninsula is located at the far eastern end of Russia, between the Sea of Okhotsk and the North Pacific Ocean. Kamchatka contains a vast network of rivers that remain free-flowing from headwaters to ocean and are virtually unaltered by human development. This region produces up to one-fourth of all wild Pacific salmon and 20% of Russia’s seafood.

Salmon fisheries on the Kamchatka Peninsula that are interested in becoming MSC certified or buyers interested in MSC certified product should contact the Marine Stewardship Council or access information through their website. Information on the MSC process in Russian is available for free through the WWF office in Petropavlovsk Kamchatskii.

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