Alaska salmon processors back out on MSC

Eight major Alaska salmon processors are discontinuing participation in the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) program, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), which two years ago took over as the client for MSC certification of Alaska salmon, unveiled on Tuesday.

Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Alaska General Seafoods, E & E Foods, Kwikpak Fisheries and North Pacific Seafoods are phasing out financial support for MSC certification of Alaska salmon by 29 October, when the current certificate expires. AFDF had just initiated the recertification process with certifier Intertek Moody Marine.

Collectively, the eight processors represent nearly three-quarters of the Alaska salmon catch.

After receiving letters from the eight processors, the AFDF board met on Monday and voted to comply with the processors’ request to phase out financial support for MSC certification of Alaska salmon.

“Clearly the level of industry support for MSC certification has changed substantially since 2010,” said AFDF Executive Director James Browning in a statement. “Swift [AFDF] board action was necessary to resolve the issue and quell speculation and confusion in the salmon market.”

This is also a blow to the MSC program in general. Alaska salmon was one of the world’s first fisheries — as well as the world’s first salmon fishery and the first U.S. fishery — to obtain MSC certification in 2000; it was re-certified in 2007. The certification includes all five Pacific salmon species — sockeye, coho, chinook, chum and pink. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game served as the client until AFDF accepted the role in early 2010.

“MSC has offered independent affirmation of what the Alaska industry and fishery managers have held since statehood — that Alaska salmon fisheries are sustainably managed,” said Browning. “However, the majority of these processors now feel it is time to redirect their resources toward a broader marketing message.”

The decision also drew reaction from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell. ASMI noted in a statement that the MSC certification did not make Alaska salmon sustainable.

“The Alaska seafood industry understands that third-party certification is a market tool that provides assurance to retailers and foodservice operators that seafood is responsibly managed,” said ASMI Executive Director Ray Riutta, adding that Alaska salmon has been awarded Responsible Fisheries Management Certification via an independent, third-party assessment conducted by Global Trust Certification Ltd. and based on the Food and Agriculture Organization Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

“We have also heard from customers that not everyone requires certification because they already know about Alaska’s 50-plus years of leadership and commitment to sustainability,” he noted.

Added Parnell: “Alaska fisheries have been built on a firm foundation: a constitutional mandate for sustained yield, a commitment to scientific research, and to serve the Alaska people. Fishing and seafood processing employ more people than any other industry in Alaska, so whether certified or not, Alaskans know that being responsible stewards of this natural resource directly translates into sustainable Alaska communities.”

According to AFDF, the decision does not affect the ongoing MSC certification of Pacific cod in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands or the Gulf of Alaska.

Click here to view the MSC’s reaction on Tuesday’s news > 


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