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Norwegian coldwater shrimp sector fears Russia will have MSC advantage in Barents

Without a quota system in place, Norway faces the loss of its eco-label.

Norwegian fishing association Fiskebat fears a new rule coming into force in 2021 could lead to market disadvantages between Norwegian and Russian shrimp fleets operating in the Barents Sea.

As the Russian fleet enters the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process, the Norwegian fleet, which was first certified to the standard seven years ago, fears it may not get its certification renewed until a quota system is put in place.

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At the moment, shrimp fishing in the Barents Sea is not regulated by a quota system, although the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) recommends a maximum sustainable catch to keep stocks regulated.

However, a new rule coming into force in 2021 will require that a quota system is in place in order to get re-certified.

“If the Russians get a certification for five years, and we are unable to renew our certification, we will be at a disadvantage,” said Jan Ivar Marak, assistant director of Fiskebat.

“We need a management plan, quotas must be distributed among the different countries and this is urgent.”

The MSC label is increasingly important in key shrimp markets such as the United Kingdom and Sweden, he said.

According to the association, Norway complies with scientific advice for shrimp catches, which was set at 70,000 metric tons for 2019.

“We have been good at this, but then Russia increased its catches, and EU fishermen are also fishing there, so we are approaching the limits,” Marak said.

The Russian fleet distributes the quota internally, attending to historic records, which has led to an increase in fishing, Marak said.

Getting a management rule in place and distributing the shrimp stock for the Barents Sea is a complex issue, especially considering that there is an area where the EU fleet catches shrimp as bycatch.

“The challenges are many and big, with four zones, but that it is difficult should not prevent us from doing something,” Marak said.

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