August 2015 Update
The MSC certification of the Northeast Sakhalin salmon fishery was formally suspended on June 30, 2015. Although the fishery client in the Smirnikh district made a business decision to suspend their certification, they continue to implement fishery improvement actions. For example, the client has continued supporting anti-poaching brigades and has hired a science team to collect biological information on fish stocks. In addition, a report on illegal catches in these districts and sociological motivations for illegal fishing is currently in preparation.
There are hopeful signs that the MSC certification may be re-activated for this fishery. A number of fishing companies that operate in Northeast Sakhalin are considering options for sharing or taking over the MSC certification. This would involve a formal agreement with the current clients to take responsibility for actions needed to close out the remaining conditions and to cover expenses for the surveillance audits. The current clients could also decide to re-activate the certification if market conditions improve.
Condition 1: Show that the harvest management strategy is appropriate and effective
The objective is to demonstrate that the current management strategy of achieving a specific spawning density (2 adults per pink salmon per square meter of spawning habitat) is appropriate and effective for maintaining sustainable harvest rates.Read More
Available data suggests that the management strategy is effective in achieving this target during odd years when runs are typically large but it is not clear whether escapement targets are met during even years when runs are much lower. In addition, the justification for the escapement target has not been provided to date. The data and methods used to justify this escapement goal will be provided, and if adequate justification is lacking, the Client will develop a research plan to determine optimal escapements for each major river in the certification unit. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the management strategy, the fishing companies will record fishery catches every five days during the fishing season. The use of in-river fishing traps (RUZs) is controversial because of their potential impacts on wild salmon runs. The Clients have opposed the use of in-river traps in their regions, but if the use of this gear is allowed data will be provided (such as daily catch, river conditions, and escapement upstream) to evaluate their impact on wild salmon populations.
The Client described the research used to justify the goal of achieving two spawners per square meter of spawning habitat, and preliminary analyses suggested that current escapement goals are appropriate for maintaining salmon production. The Smirnykh fishing company client hired a science team to survey spawning grounds and collect data on spawning escapements, and some escapement data for 2013 were provided.
Use of RUZs is regulated by the Anadromous Fish Commission. RUZs were used in the Smirnykhovsky region in the latter portion of the 2013 fishing season, but the Client did not provide information on regulatory actions taken by the Anadromous Fish Commission.Read Less
Condition 2: Estimate all sources of fishing mortality to improve the harvest strategy
The objective is to estimate catches from all sources of fishing mortality to improve the harvest strategy.Read More
In the NE Sakhalin fishery, information is lacking on illegal freshwater harvest of pink salmon. The Client will work with Sakhalin Environment Watch and Sakhalin State University to gather and analyze information on illegal harvests from the press, the regional enforcement agency (SKTU), the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor’s office, and other groups. Non-governmental organizations will be involved with the analysis as well, since they operate independently of the government and fishing companies and will help ensure that data are accurate. The Client will work with SakhNIRO and SakhRybVod to estimate illegal salmon catches on the entire stock and its major stock components.
The Client contracted sociologists to conduct a study on illegal harvest and the feasibility of estimating illegal catches. Following development of a study plan, field work was conducted in 2013. The sociologists have prepared a report that provides limited estimates of illegal catches, but the estimates need to be refined further.Read Less
Condition 3: Conduct adequate assessment of the stock status
The objective is to demonstrate that salmon abundances in the monitored index rivers correspond with abundances in other, non-index rivers.Read More
This is important because several of the larger salmon producing systems (Tym River in the Nogliki District, Langeri River in the Smirnykh District) are not currently monitored. The Client will work with SakhRybVod and SakhNIRO to monitor escapements into a representative array of non-index rivers, and compare with escapement data from monitored index streams. This analysis will assess whether the index streams are representative of escapements into other streams in the certification units. The analysis plan also includes monitoring of pink salmon production at the Pilenga salmon hatchery and any new pink salmon hatcheries that may be constructed in the future.
The Client contracted researchers at St. Petersburg State University to do a study on pink salmon run characteristics in northeast Sakhalin. The researchers developed a study plan and monitored salmon escapements in the Langeri River for the first time in 2013, collecting data that will be utilized by SakhNIRO. SakhRybVod has been requested to provide Tym River escapements and analyze their correlation to escapements in index rivers. The science team hired by the Smirnykh fishing company continued to collect biological information on adult and juvenile pink salmon in the Langeri River in 2014. Information on Tym River pink salmon have not yet been provided.Read Less
Condition 4: Demonstrate that the fishery does not have significant negative impacts on retained species
The objective is to show that the NE Sakhalin pink salmon fishery does not hinder the recovery of depleted summer run chum salmon populations.Read More
The Client will work with SakhRybVod and SakhNIRO to implement a plan for assessing the catch and stock status of summer and fall run chum salmon in NE Sakhalin. Chum catches for the Nogliki and Smirnykh districts will be recorded every 5 to 10 days. The possibility of marking hatchery-produced chum will also be investigated, which would allow for estimation of the proportion of hatchery chum in wild spawning areas.
The Smirnykh fishing company supplied data on sport harvest of chum salmon, which provided some information on chum run timing and abundance. The Client also contracted researchers at St. Petersburg State University to investigate catches of non-target species in the pink salmon fishery, and the researchers developed a study plan and conducted field work in 2013. However, commercial catches and escapements of pink and chum salmon for 2012-2013 were not provided so the audit team determined they Client was behind schedule for closing this condition. However, commercial catches and escapements of pink and chum salmon for 2012-2013 were not provided during the first surveillance audit, so the audit team determined the Client was behind schedule for closing this condition.
In August 2014, the science team hired by the Smirnykh fishery client counted adult chum salmon returning to the Bolshaya Huzi River during two days. No chum were caught by the fishery in 2013 or 2014.Read Less
Condition 5: Evaluate fishery impacts on retained species
Although commercial harvests of some retained species (chum salmon, flatfish) are quantified, catches kept for personal use are not reported, particularly for species such as cherry salmon, coho salmon and char.Read More
The objective is to collect sufficient data on all retained species to assess fishery impacts upon them. A monitoring protocol that involves recording the number of species caught, their sex (where visual determination of sex is possible), and fish size will be used. This protocol was successfully implemented in 2010 and was continued in 2011. The Client will consult with SakhNIRO and TINRO to identify and analyze any fishery impacts, which will be provided to the audit team and any other interested parties.
The Client contracted researchers at St. Petersburg State University to investigate catches of non-target species in the pink salmon fishery. The researchers developed a study plan and conducted field work in 2013. They will continue to collect data on non-target catches and are supposed to provide data starting at the next audit. The science team hired by the Smirnykh fishing company collected data on retained species in 2014 and sent them to Dr. Dmitry Lajus for analysis.Read Less
Condition 6: Evaluate fishery impacts on endangered, threatened, protected (ETP) species
The objective is to estimate fishery impacts on ETP species, especially Sakhalin taimen, green sturgeon, and Kaluga sturgeon.Read More
The Client will work with SakhNIRO and/or the Institute of General Genetics to develop an independent observer program that will estimate fishery mortality of ETP species. If funds are available and the effectiveness and cost of the program are deemed adequate, the observer program will be implemented. Otherwise, alternative plans will be considered. One such alternative would be to mark ETP species individuals to assess overlap in outmigration timing with the salmon fishing season. Another alternative would be to conduct annual taimen spawning surveys in NE Sakhalin rivers. All data regarding the population status of Sakhalin taimen and other ETP species will be made publically available, and any threats from hatchery activities to taimen populations will be described. An ongoing taimen monitoring program has been running for three years, and a report on that program will be provided at the first surveillance audit.
SakhNIRO provided a report on the status of taimen on Sakhalin, which concluded that the primary threat to populations is illegal harvest by local residents in easily accessible rivers. SakhNIRO experts feel that commercial bycatch is a comparatively minor threat, but bycatch rates need to be quantified. One taimen was reportedly caught during the 2013 fishing season.
As part of the taimen monitoring program, Dr. Lev Zhivotovsky at the Institute of General Genetics performed genetic analysis on taimen sampled from about 30 populations. His research indicated that many of these populations are genetically distinct and likely depleted. Thus one threat from hatcheries to taimen populations is the transfer of taimen among rivers for use as hatchery broodstock. Zhivotovsky’s research has been applied to a taimen hatchery project in southeast Sakhalin, which is now using local fish for broodstock rather than taimen from a different river.Read Less
Condition 7: Improve regulation enforcement and compliance
Illegal fishing is a substantial problem in this fishery, and the objective is to develop a plan to improve regulation enforcement and compliance.Read More
The Client will work with other fishing companies to cooperatively police the fishery, in addition to documenting official data on violations of regulations. Efforts will be made to assess how official reports of illegal fishing correspond to actual occurrences. After analyzing data on illegal fishing and evaluating the effectiveness of enforcement, the Client will suggest options for improving compliance. The Client will also work with non-governmental organizations to monitor compliance with fishing gear regulations using satellite imagery.
The Smirnykhovsky Regional Fisheries Association provided funding and other resources to improve cooperative enforcement of fishery regulations. The Client has reportedly summarized data on SKTU enforcement activities and initiated a plan for monitoring fishery compliance, but documentation was not provided. Thus progress on this condition is behind schedule.Read Less
Condition 8: Develop and provide a research plan
A research program entitled “Far Eastern Basin program of complex investigation of Pacific salmon for period 2007-2012” was approved by the Federal Agency for Fisheries in 2007.Read More
This program is supposed to collect all information necessary for effective fisheries management, but a copy of the plan was not provided to the assessment team. The objective is to develop a research plan to obtain information required for effective and sustainable fishery management. The plan will describe research goals and priorities for topics such as escapement goals and fishery impacts on bycatch and ETP species, which have already been identified as areas needing improvement. Depending on nature of the research and available funding, different elements of the research plan will be carried out by the Client or by the Client in collaboration with fishing companies, non-governmental organizations, or government agencies.
The Client met with SakhNIRO and requested several documents that can be used to meet this condition. These include a 5-year (2012-2016) research plan for salmon published by the Federal Agency for Fisheries, a list of SakhNIRO research and monitoring activities planned for 2014-2015, and a published summary of results from the November 2013 interagency hatchery meeting. However, the requested information was not provided so condition progress is behind schedule.Read Less