Round Table on Sustainability of Russian Fisheries
Russians suspect the foreigners that all the words on sustainability are no more than marketing moves. Their Western counterparts, on the other hand, don't understand methods used by Russian scientists and authorities and how they decide what can be allowed and what can not be.
The discussions are under way for more than five years, and everybody sees that positions become closer to each other. Two of Russian fisheries even managed to become certified that they satisfy sustainability requirements of MSC. Regular meetings of experts made Anglo-American certifying specialists to believe (this is no joke!) that there really is fishery science in Russia, and that the government follows its recommendations.
The round table was actually another meeting of top managers from FFA and other regulating bodies with really high class experts of Western fish business. Those who participated (just about 20 foreigners arrived, but all of them - really high level people) had a good chance to speak eyeball to eyeball with FFA and Coast Guard top managers, as well as with the best TINRO institute specialists. On the other hand, Russian experts had a rare chance to meet customers (not the buyers they work with) - from processing companies, retail chains, HORECA.
Guus Pastoor, President of EU processors and Importers Association explained how European market works. Everybody noticed too high a proportion of Russian fish coming to Europe via China.
Roger Bing, the main buyer of Darden Restaurant demonstrated that MSC-certified products are more expensive even in American restaurants. It effectively means that sustainability concerns went back to US via Europe.
MSC Standards and Licensing Director David Agnew clarified certification process. Peter Hajipieres, vice-president of Birds Eye Iglo Group, the biggest European fish processor, as always brilliant speaker, explained how important it is to provide sustainable sourcing of food. Just a year ago even consumers of many European countries didn't really care, but today it became high priority, right after price, security and adequate taste.
However, the biggest achievement of the round table was the very fact it happened, and its participants met each other personally. At the same time, both Westerners and Russians learned a lot about each other.