By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 21 July, 2013
Soon after it was criticized for excluding non-MSC-certified Alaska salmon from its sustainable seafood guidelines, the National Parks Service (NPS) is planning to revamp its policy.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and the seafood industry-funded nonprofit group Seafood Coalition raised concerns about the NPS’s seafood guidelines in its Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative. The guidelines state that, where seafood options are offered, they should be “best choices” or “good alternatives” on the Seafood Watch list, certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, or identified by an equivalent program that has been approved by the NPS.
“We didn’t mean to step on anyone’s toes. The people who worked on the [sustainable food] guidelines tried to find some easily-understood guidelines,” Kathy Kupper, spokesperson for the National Parks Service, told SeafoodSource. “Now that questions have come up, we are going to pull back and meet with NOAA,” Kupper added.
In a letter to NPS, Sen. Murkowski wrote, “It is disconcerting to me that your agencies have acted to preempt the sale of wild Alaska salmon by requiring the use of a very narrow range of third-party seafood certification organizations.”
The Seafood Coalition criticized NPS’s exclusion of the FishWatch program. “Why would the NPS limit its vendors to those whose products are deemed sustainable by outside interests while ignoring FishWatch, an existing and proven program? The FishWatch program was created by and is administratively part of an agency that manages our nation’s fisheries,” the Seafood Coalition wrote in a press statement.
In a meeting with NOAA officials next week, NPS officials will determine the additional sustainable seafood certification programs that should be included in its sustainability guidelines. “The guideline was never meant to exclude anyone. It has been brought to our attention that there are other [sustainable seafood guidelines] and we are looking at that now,” Kupper said.
Kupper also stressed that NPS’s sustainable food guidelines are just that — voluntary guidelines. “You can’t require sustainability across the board because of logistics, so it had to be written as a guideline. Some of our parks are in back country places where you can’t get local and sustainable food,” Kupper said.