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Fishermen preserve marine forests of the Barents Sea

27 july 2021
In 2020, three areas were created in the Barents Sea where, according to scientists, vulnerable marine habitats can be found - "underwater forests" of sponges and corals. In order to preserve such sites and organize the collection of scientific data from fishing vessels, the Union of Fisheries of the North, NOREBO, FEST and the Arkhangelsk Trawl Fleet in 2020 signed an Agreement on Measures for the Protection of Vulnerable Habitats in the Barents Sea. The document, developed with the active support of WWF-Russia, MSC and Russian experts, was supported by about a hundred fishermen.

The total area of the three regions covered by the Agreement is more than 14 thousand square nautical miles. This represents about 30% of the total area of the trawl fishery for cod and haddock in the Barents Sea. In these areas, it is recommended to limit fishing activities using bottom trawls for catching cod, haddock and northern shrimp.

According to the Agreement, an analysis of the Russian trawl fishery in the Barents Sea was carried out by the Murmansk company MORINFO. Trawl tracks of all Russian bottom trawlers in the Barents Sea for the second half of 2020 were mapped. The results of the analysis of satellite monitoring data and ship documents confirmed a high level of compliance with the terms of the Agreement, fishing vessels voluntarily bypassed vulnerable areas in the Barents Sea. During this period, there was only one trawling in the special zone and corrective action was taken with respect to the shipowner of this vessel.

(c) A. Pashkovsky
“The results of the independent monitoring of the trawl fishery for cod and haddock confirmed the fulfillment of the terms of the Agreement and the seriousness of the fishermen's intentions in the development of a sustainable fishery for cod and haddock in the Barents Sea. We can confidently say that Russian fishermen are leading this process and are setting positive example for fishing companies in other countries that also conduct bottom trawl fishing,” comments Aleksey Golenkevich, Coordinator of sustainable fisheries projects of the WWF-Russia Barents office.

In the process of monitoring the trawl fishery, calculations of swept areas and a comparative analysis with the data of previous years, which were obtained by WWF-Russia, were performed. In parallel with this, data were collected on the by-catch of benthic invertebrates, including objects of vulnerable biocenoses. And this work will be done annually. The next benchmark analysis of the Russian trawl fishery for 2021 will be performed in early 2022.

(с) E. Sala
(с) O. Savinkin

Trawl track distribution data are also of scientific and applied value. The information accumulated over several years will make it possible to assess interannual changes in the distribution and migration of cod and haddock in the Barents Sea, as well as to identify the relationship of these processes with climate change and assess the threats to vulnerable marine ecosystems.

According to the signed agreement, it is planned to develop and implement a program with the participation of scientific observers to collect and analyze additional data. The main goal of this program is to obtain a more accurate scientific picture of the distribution of vulnerable benthic ecosystems, which will be used for their conservation.

For additional information please contact
Coordinator of sustainable fisheries projects, WWF-Russia Barents office
Press officer of Barents ecoregional programme