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Премия рунета 2017

Pollock fishing in the Chukchi Sea may threaten vulnerable Arctic ecosystems

08 april 2020
Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) presented the rationale for catching more than one hundred thousand metric tons of pollock in the Chukchi Sea in 2020. Specialists from WWF-Russia are confident that the materials presented do not provide a comprehensive assessment of the threats and impact of fishing on benthic communities.

On April 6, in Vladivostok, the Pacific branch of VNIRO (TINRO) held a public hearing on the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of marine resources in 2020. The main issue at the hearing was about the more than 100 thousand metric tons of pollock scheduled for harvest in the southern part of the Chukchi Sea.

Pollock is a relatively new species for this part of the Arctic. Back in 2014, it was rarely recorded during trawl surveys in the coastal waters off northern Chukotka. But four years later, scientists observed a significant concentration of full-grown pollock there. The expansion of pollocks’ area further to the north is most likely due to the warming of the Bering Sea. The process has been observed since 2015 when adult pollock individuals started to develop the earlier inaccessible benthos-rich waters north off the Bering Strait. This year, pollock concentrations here have reached, according to scientists, commercial values.

“The authors of the presented Fisheries Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) only pay attention to the impact on the fishing stocks,” says Sergey Korostelev, coordinator of the WWF-Russia’s Sustainable Marine Fisheries Program. “At the same time, there is no assessment of the impact on other species, their habitats, and the marine ecosystems in the region caused by fishing. Also, the EIA does neither give suggestions on fishing gear, nor the time frame for fishing. In our opinion, such assessments should not be neglected."

The Bering Strait and the waters of the adjacent seas are unique in terms of geography and biology. Here, on the border of two oceans and continents, live about 20 million seabirds and hundreds of thousands of mammals. In 2013, experts from Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) recognized four marine areas important for biodiversity in the region. Those areas intersect the proposed fishing areas.

“The danger to marine ecosystems comes not only from the fishing operations themselves, but also from the related shipping,” said Sergei Rafanov, director of WWF-Russia’s Kamchatka Ecoregional Office, acting director of WWF-Russia’s Sustainable Fisheries Program. “Prior to opening of fishing for pollock in the Chukchi Sea, it is necessary to develop and approve amendments to the Fishing Rules. In particular, we consider it extremely significant
  • to identify areas prohibited for fishing;

  • to identify prohibited and permitted types of fishing gear;

  • to recognize the timing of fishing;

  • to regulate the marking of fishing gears and the reporting of their disposal.”

WWF-Russia experts sent their comments for consideration to VNIRO. Proposals on environmental aspects of the planned activities will be accepted by the institute for a month.

For additional information please contact
Project coordinator (Sustainable fishery project coordinator)