By Steven Hedlund
Published on Tuesday, January 17 2012
Tuesday’s news that the Alaska salmon fishery is no longer pursuing Marine Stewardship Council re-certification came only about a week after three Canadian conservation organizations took aim at the fishery for damaging British Columbia wild fish stocks and violating conditions of its MSC certification.
Raincoast Conservation Foundation, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and Watershed Watch Salmon Society last Wednesday announced that they’re challenging MSC re-certification for Alaska salmon, a process that began in November, because, they claim, billions of hatchery-raised salmon are competing with wild Canadian salmon and steelhead for limited food supplies, putting wild fish stocks at risk.
“The timing is interesting, indeed,” said Aaron Hill, a biologist with Watershed Watch, in an e-mail to SeafoodSource on Wednesday. “They had already made the decision to re-certify, so what changed, and why now?
“There are certainly downsides to Alaska bailing from MSC, but ultimately this is a good thing. Several of the 16 units of certification, like Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound, have major problems that managers failed to address during the past decade of certification,” explained Hill. “These fisheries were not sustainable to begin with, and they're still not sustainable, and their ongoing certification was misleading to consumers and sullied the MSC brand. It is unfortunate that some of the better-managed fisheries, like Bristol Bay sockeye, will no longer enjoy the market advantage of eco-certification.”
After receiving letters from eight major Alaska salmon processors, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) board met on Monday and decided to comply with the processors’ request to phase out financial support for MSC certification of Alaska salmon. AFDF has served at the MSC client for the Alaska salmon fishery since February 2010.