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First Estonia Prawn Fishery Enters MSC Assessment

19 October 2012

ESTONIA - The Estonian North East Arctic cold water prawn fishery enters into full assessment for MSC certification. It is the first Estonian fishery to seek MSC certification. If successful this fishery will become part of a select group of prawn fisheries globally that have earned MSC certification.

The client fishery operates under Estonian Fisheries Management, the EU Commission management and under NEAFC. Stock management is advised by ICES’ scientific advice.

The unit that enter into certification process is defined as the Estonia North East Arctic cold water prawn fishery and takes place in Barents Sea (ICES division Ia,b and IIb) represented by four vessels. The fishing season depends on the ice conditions and the ice class of the vessels. The main season runs from March until October. Cold water prawns are caught by small-mesh trawl gear with a minimum stretched mesh size of 38 mm. All trawls are equipped with obligatory sorting grids, which separate by-catch of other fish species out of the shrimp trawl. Areas with high abundance of juvenile fish are closed to shrimp fishing. These measures are designed to minimise by-catch of juvenile fish. The fishery typically takes place at 250 – 500m of depth. The total catch of all nations in 2011 was 23.000 MT; the Unit of Certification caught some 4000 MT of that. ICES advised a TAC in this area of 60 000 MT.

The largest prawns are frozen raw and whole and usually sold to Japan; the medium sized prawns get cooked and frozen whole and are sold to the Scandinavian markets (Denmark, Sweden). The whole prawns are usually packed into 5kg and 1kg boxes. The smallest prawns are frozen shell-on and sold to peeling plants for further processing. The main commercial markets for the fishery are the EU and Japan. Points of landing depend on the fishing area; some 60 per cent is landed in Norway, with the remainder landed in Iceland. Chain of Custody is expected to commence at the point of landing.

Mati Sarevet, Managing Director at Reyktal Ltd said: “Last year I participated in a conference on eco-labeling and traceability of seafood. This confirmed that there is a definite increase in demand for sustainably caught MSC certified seafood in Europe. This triggered our interest in the MSC program, and I’m delighted that we are now able to start the full MSC assessment. Estonia is a country with a long tradition in distant water fishing, and we export a lot of seafood products. It is likely that more Estonian fisheries will join the MSC program in the future. We are a small country, but we can help to make change happen.“

“This is the first Estonian fishery entering the MSC program. This announcement shows the client’s commitment to demonstrate its sustainability credentials; it also reflects strong market demand for MSC certified prawn products. This is a Baltic first, and we hope that we can welcome other distant water fisheries from the Baltic States in the near future,” says Gísli Gíslason, Senior Fishery Outreach Manager in North Europe.

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