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MSC certification should consider the impact of mining operations on salmon fisheries

05 august 2019
The director of the Kamchatka Office of the WWF-Russia met with representatives of MRAG Americas – a certifier that assesses the sustainability of fisheries according to the standards of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The meeting concerned the salmon fishery at the preliminary assessment stage of the Karaginsky Bay (“Vyvenskoye” and “Belorechensk” companies) and the Sobolevsky region (“Zarya” and “Kolpakovsky Fish Plant” companies).

Despite the fact that these companies are located on the opposite coasts of Kamchatka, there is one unobvious factor that unites their work. The fact is that their operations are located in the area of ​​activity of mining enterprises. The Vyvenka River basin on the east coast is the area of ​​interest for “Koryakgeoldobycha”. In the Icha River basin in the west of the peninsula, the Aginskoye field is developed by Kamgold, which is part of Kamchatka Gold JSC.

“The assessment of salmon stocks for certified fisheries takes into account the fishing strategy, fishing gears, the impact of fishing operations. However, the MRAG Americas interim report on these fisheries completely lacks information on the impact of gold and platinum mining on salmon habitats, ” said Sergei Rafanov, director of the Kamchatka/Bering Sea Ecoregional Office of WWF-Russia. “The problem of the negative impact of the mining industry on the watersheds of the peninsula is well known. However, a solution to it has still not been found by the regional authorities. Independent scholars and local activists point to violations. But official investigations into the activities of mining companies are often formal and do not encourage mining companies to adopt the best international practices to minimize environmental impact. The public does not have access to the reports related to the activities of mining enterprises and the assessment of the impact of these activities on salmon ecosystems. The Kamchatka branch of the Federal Fishery Agency (SVTU) and the Kamchatka Research Institute of Fishery and Oceanography (KamchatNIRO) should monitor the state of water in the river basin, where precious metals are mined. In fact, over the past ten years, research in this area has suffered from irregularities due to lack of funding.”

Today, the loss of salmon stocks on two tributaries of the Vyvenka River over the past seven years is well known. The impact was most likely the result of the activities of the mining company. Ecologists are also concerned about the situation on the Aga River, a tributary to the Icha River.

The prospect of coal mining by Indian companies TATA Power on the west coast of Kamchatka in the Sobolevsky district is of huge concern to environmentalists. Coal mining and loading activities could potentially affect salmon stocks along the coast, including fisheries certified against MSC standards earlier.

WWF-Russia considers the availability of relevant, reliable and objective information about the impact of the activities of mining companies as a necessary condition for the certification process of fisheries according to MSC standards. In assessing the sustainability of the fishery, not only the activities of fishing companies should be taken into account, but also the consequences of the extraction of precious metals for the watershed. In the future, the work of the fishermen should be carried out in collaboration with the mining companies with constant monitoring of the situation by scientists. It is of the interests of the fishing industry to demand mining companies

• to carry out land remediation required by law to restore the quality and health of salmon ecosystems;

• to minimize environmental impact by introducing international best practices.

For additional information please contact
Head of WWF Kamchatka/Bering Sea Ecoregional Office