By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 23 January, 2013
Alaska government officials expressed their concerns about Alaska salmon producers that plan to continue with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification after a recent meeting in Anchorage.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials have been vocal about the harmful impact they believe that MSC certification has on Alaskan salmon trade since the Seattle, Wash.-based Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association (PSVOA) agreed to serve as the client for MSC re-certification. PSVOA took on the MSC re-certification last year after eight major Alaskan salmon processors — including Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, and Ocean Beauty Seafoods — said they would phase out financial support for MSC certification.
“The state of Alaska has been very candid about our concerns with MSC certification and we shared those concerns with the PSVOA board of directors at our recent meeting. We have concerns about MSC attempting to make the MSC label a requirement for entry into certain markets, erosion of the Alaskan brand and all that it stands for, increased costs, and the lack of consistent standards applied to fisheries undergoing the recertification process,” Cora Campbell (pictured), commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told SeafoodSource.
Instead of MSC certification, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and the State of Alaska endorse the FAO-based Responsible Fisheries Management Certification, conducted by Global Trust Certifications. “ASMI has invested a considerable amount of resources working with our global industry partners on developing this program and, to date, most every major Alaska fishery is RFM-certified,” Campbell said.
However, “The MSC has publicly challenged the credibility of the RFM certification process, and has lobbied seafood buyers around the world to not source their salmon from Alaska if Alaska does not continue with MSC certification, “ Campbell said. “This behavior suggests that the MSC agenda is to control access to the marketplace, rather than to support sustainable fisheries,” she added.
State officials have already observed erosion of the Alaska salmon brand because of MSC and have seen cases where the MSC label has been substituted for Alaska branding, according to Campbell. “When more fisheries get branded with the MSC logo rather than the Alaska brand, it allows fisheries that are not as well managed as our own to be put on equal footing in the marketplace,” she said.
In the meeting with PSVOA executives, Campbell wanted to share Alaska officials’ concerns about “some aspects of how MSC behaves in the marketplace,” she said. However, it is ultimately up to PSVOA and the salmon industry at large to decide whether or not they will continue with MSC certification, Campbell added.
PSVOA executives told SeafoodSource that PSVOA will go ahead with MSC re-certification. “The assessment is ongoing and we hope to have a draft shortly from MSC certifiers. We fully expect that the fishery will be re-certified,” said Bob Kehoe, executive director of PSVOA.