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Sea forests of the Barents Sea are under protection

15 july 2020
The four largest Russian fishing groups have signed an Agreement on the conservation of bottom vulnerable biotopes - underwater sponges and corals “forests” in the Barents Sea. This event was preceded by the great long-term work of business, WWF Russia, MSC and Russian experts.

The Fishing Industry Union of the North (FIUN), Norebo Group, JVC “Arkhangelsk Trawl Fleet” and F.E.S.T. Group harvesting over 90% of Russian cod and haddock, by the bottom trawls, which have a negative impact on the seabed and its inhabitants in the fishing areas. In order to reduce this impact and preserve vulnerable ecosystems in accordance with the conditions of the MSC international environmental certification, fishermen together with WWF Russia identified special areas with valuable areas of sponges, corals and sea feathers.

“The signed agreement is a consensus that was not easy to find. We tried to comply with the interests of both nature and fishermen in order to preserve valuable bioresources and healthy ecosystems for our future generations. This is a very responsible decision on the part of the fishermen, which imposes serious obligations on them, ”comments Alexey Golenkevich, the WWF Russia expert.
(с) Andrey Pashkovsky/“Marine Info” LLC
(с) Denis Semenov/WWF Russia

The total area of three sites covers 14 thousand square miles, which fishermen will voluntarily avoid during fishing operations.

“WWF Russia has been cooperating with responsible fishermen for many years. The decision of these four largest groups of companies is an unprecedented step towards the development of sustainable fisheries in the Arctic. But work does not end there, now the most important thing is that this agreement does not remain on paper only, ”comments Konstantin Zgurovsky, Senior Advisor to WWF Russia.

Also, on each vessel, fishermen and observers will record by-catch of bottom organisms. Information will be generated into a common database, processed and analyzed by scientists.

“One can only welcome that the fisheries of the Northern Basin voluntarily commit themselves to the conservation of vulnerable biotopes of the Barents Sea. They took another important step in the development of environmentally responsible fishing,” comments Andrey Vinnikov, Director of Marine Programs, CAB Marine Certification .

The next step, according to the signed agreement, is the development of a scientific observation program with competent scientific and environmental organizations, which will analyze the data obtained.

(с) Denis Semenov/WWF Russia
“The voluntary Agreement signed is a great effort from the Russian fisheries engaged in the fishing of Cod and other demersal species to limit impacts in potentially sensitive areas in the Barents Sea. Management of fisheries in the Barents Sea is already amongst the best in the world, and fisheries operating there, including the Russian fisheries, have held MSC certification for many years. However, we learn more about fishing and its impacts all the time, and these additional measures show the commitment of the Russian industry to continuous improvement. The industry agreement is not prohibiting fishing in these areas, but it aims to ensure that solid data is collected, and brings in clear thresholds to limit impacts on vulnerable benthic organisms. The long term engagement from WWF Russia in working with the industry to demonstrate sustainable practices has been instrumental in the achievement of this milestone”, comments Camiel Derichs, MSC Program Development Director.

WWF Russia thanks for assistance in development of maps of vulnerable bottom areas of the Barents Sea: PINRO (Polar Branch of VNIRO), Zoological Institute and the Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, “Marine Info” LLC .

For additional information please contact
Project coordinator
Press officer of Barents ecoregional programme