Russia’s Longline Fishery Association (LFA) has gained Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for the Sea of Okhotsk cod longline fishery.

Six large fishing companies of the LFA obtained MSC certification for cod in the North Kuril and South Kuril zones, West Kamchatka and Kamchatka-Kuril subzones.

The total volume of cod under this MSC assessment is 5,908 metric tons, or around 13.2 percent of Russia’s total allowable catch (TAC) in these areas, which was set at 45,000 metric tons for 2023.

"The assessment of compliance to the MSC requirements was conducted by experts from the certification body UCSL (United Certification Systems Limited)," said Vyacheslav Bychkov, president of the LFA.

"The only problematic issue was the insufficient number of scientific onboard observers for certified fishing areas. We are preparing measures to expand observer coverage of our certification areas," he said.

In October 2019, the LFA earned MSC certification for the West Bering Sea cod and halibut longline fisheries.

Nine members of LFA have the right to use the MSC eco-label on Pacific cod harvested in the Western Bering Sea, East Kamchatka and Chukchi zones.

Combined, the certified quota accounts for around 45 percent of the cod TAC in these areas, set at 123,500 metric tons for this year.

Russian longliners’ most important Pacific cod products include frozen headed and gutted (H&G) and fillet blocks, but LFA members, like the Russian seafood sector overall, planned to focus more on value-added products.

"We are planning to build up output of value-added products, first of all cod fillets, however, it will significantly depend on market demand," Vyacheslav Bychkov, president of the LFA, told IntraFish previously.

The major markets for the LFA’s Pacific cod products were the United States, Korea, China, the European Union and Japan, as well as the domestic market.

However, given the sanctions imposed on Russian seafood exports by the United States and some European countries, overseas sales are becoming challenging.

The LFA was set up in 2013 and currently includes nine fishing companies in the country’s Far East Fishery Basin and three companies of the North Fishery Basin, together operating more than 30 longline vessels.