Don’t lose sight of sustainability goal


April Forristall, assistant editor

Published on
September 16, 2013

Alaska’s battle with the Marine Stewardship Council sustainable certification program has resurfaced recently, pulling Walmart into the fray.

The retail giant’s current policy to only sell seafood certified sustainable by the MSC was called “economic blackmail” by Rod Moore, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, at a recent House Natural Resources hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

In 2012, several big Alaska salmon processors didn’t renew the Marine Stewardship Council’s label, instead backing Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM), a certification program based on international standards from the Food and Agriculture Organization.

With more and more Alaska fisheries opting for RFM certification — seven firms were certified and one more entered assessment in the past two weeks alone — Walmart and other buyers have no choice but to take notice and consider the merits of other certification schemes and even fishery improvement programs. Does the MSC have a monopoly on the market? Maybe. But that shouldn’t stop other certification schemes from trying to break through.

In Walmart’s case, the retailer is not committed solely to the MSC, and they have said as much. It only took one meeting with a delegation of Alaska representatives to get the retail giant to consider [the retailer hasn’t divulged it’s final decision on the matter] updating its policy to one that will not exclude the sale of non-MSC-certified Alaska seafood in its stores. If other certification schemes want to be considered, now’s the time to lobby Walmart (or other retail and foodservice outlets) and state their case.

The end result for all involved parties should be a sustainable seafood supply that will fulfill the pipeline for years to come, no matter whether it’s certified or not. 

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