Norebo recognizes that deep-sea fishing activities sometimes employ gears that can, in the normal course of operation, come into contact with the sea floor. This can have a negative effect on both living marine resources and their ecosystems. The vulnerability of an ecosystem is related to the vulnerability of its constituent population, communities or habitats. Such habitats may form vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs). When fishing gears come into contact with the seafloor and other structural elements of the ecosystem, damage can occur increasing the physical vulnerability of the ecosystem.
Some deep-sea species are highly productive and can support larger fisheries. But, as fisheries expand their depth, more low productivity species are caught either as targeted species or as bycatch. This can lead to rapid resource depletion among certain species. In addition, some deep-sea marine ecosystems can be easily disturbed and are slow to recover from disturbances.
Conservation and protection of marine ecosystems including vulnerable habitats is important to maintain stock of commercial species in good condition and ensure preservation of biological diversity in general.
In order to preserve VMEs including those in Arctic areas, NOREBO in cooperation with other Russian and foreign companies and NGOs developed and signed two important agreements that define NOREBO’s policy within sustainable fishery:
1. Industry Group Agreement to Cod Fishery in the Northern Part of North-East Atlantic (signed on 20th of April 2016 in London)
This agreement first of all is aimed at protecting VMEs around Spitsbergen archipelago (FAO area 27, ICES divisions IIb2 and Ib west of the delimitation line as defined in the Treaty between Norway and Russia concerning maritime delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean of 2010) north for 76 degree North.
The representatives of harvesting sector from Russian and Norway that signed this agreement committed not to expand NEA cod fishing activities with trawl gear outside the existing fishing area defined according to the fishing data from 2004 to 2016 into those areas where regular fishing has not taken place before. The agreement provides mapping of known VMEs in the existing fishing area and outside it as well as development of effective and proportional measures that prevent environmental degradation in such areas.
The main work under this agreement will happen in the working group that consists of representatives from harvesting sector, processors and manufacturers, retailers and food service in the UK, Greenpeace.
2. Agreement on Coordination of Actions of Fishing Companies to Minimize the Impact of Bottom Trawl Fishery on the Benthic Ecosystems in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea (signed on 9th of November 2016 in Murmansk)
This agreement is aimed at protection of VMEs in the ecosystem of the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea when fishing with bottom trawl. The agreement was developed in the Coordination Council for Development of Sustainable Fishery in the North Atlantic (the Council) and signed by Russian fishing companies as members of the Council.
The agreement provides the following measures:
- Development and implementation of the program for registration of bycatch of megabenthos (VME indicators) by large taxonomic groups (sponges, sea pens, sea stars etc.) on the fishing vessels of the parties when fishing in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea.
- Training of the crew to register bycatch of megabenthos (VMEs indicators) by large taxonomic groups (sponges, sea pens, sea stars etc.).
- Our fishing companies will voluntary conduct cod, haddock and saithe fishery within the existing bottom fishing areas in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea defined on the basis of information concerning bottom fishing activities in the period 1995-2016 or a shorter period depending on the availability of the data. The expansion of the fishery into new fishing areas can be undertaken in case sufficient knowledge on existence of VME in such areas is available and there is no risk of significant adverse impacts on such VMEs. The existing bottom fishing areas can be annually updated subject to available scientific advice.
- In cooperation with fishery scientists and other fishing companies NOREBO will map VME areas using all available and reliable data sources including MAREANO and ICES advice within the existing bottom fishing areas.
5.The capture of cod, haddock and saithe within the existing fishing area will occur outside the existing VME areas in accordance with the scientific advice and internal procedures for bycatch of VME indicators.
The main work under this agreement will be carried out in the Council in close cooperation with the fisheries scientific institutions and environmental NGOs such as WWF Russia.
On the 17th of March 2016, NOREBO, Fishing Industry Union in the North (FIUN), FEST Group and Archangelsk Trawl Fleet signed the Agreement on Coordination of Actions of the Fishing Companies to Develop Sustainable Fishery in the North Atlantic. The Coordination Council for Development of Sustainable Fishery in the North Atlantic (the Council) was created under this agreement.
The main task of the Council is to coordinate actions of its parties (Russian fishing companies) to develop and take measures to comply with the requirements and conditions of any environmental certification as well as to develop and implement projects aimed at development of sustainable fishery. First of all, the work within the Council will be related to development of harmonized approaches for registration of non-target species that occur in the trawl gear when fishing cod and haddock; cooperation for modernization of bottom trawl gear in order to minimize impact on the environment; cooperation with other organizations both in Russia and abroad. The Council will also develop its cooperation with the unions of fishermen in Norway though existing cooperation formats. The cooperation with Russian fisheries research institutions will be one of the priorities if the Council.