Alaska salmon suppliers tout RFM at ESE


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
April 22, 2013

Many Alaska salmon suppliers that have chosen the Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program are expressing confidence that buyers in Europe and other key markets will embrace the third-party certification with open arms.

“We’re just trying to manage the resource as best we can. It’s a business decision for our future, for the future of Alaska and the right way to think about sustainability,” said Tom Sunderland of Ocean Beauty Seafoods of Seattle at the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday, 23 April.

“My conversations this year won’t be much different from last year,” added Sunderland. “The only thing that’s different is the timing of when people have to change out packaging. It’s immediate now.”

Randy Rice, technical program director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), is holding 30-minute informational meetings with buyers throughout the three-day event. Meetings were set up via online booking to accommodate show attendees’ busy schedules.

“It’s a format that’s as convenient as possible for show visitors,” said Rice, who added that RFM certification has been galvanizing support ever since Alaska salmon was certified in March 2011. “It’s not entirely new.”

Other Alaska seafood species that have earned RFM certification include black cod (sablefish), Alaska pollock, Pacific cod, halibut and Bering Sea king and snow crab. There are now 13 Alaska seafood suppliers with RFM chain-of-custody certification, with “about that many” in the process, said Rice.

According to ASMI, approximately 80 percent of the 2013 Alaska salmon harvest will be certified under the RFM program, which is based on United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) standards.

The remainder of the state’s salmon bounty is also certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). In 2012, a group of the top Alaska salmon processors — including major Seattle-based suppliers like Ocean Beauty, Trident Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods — opted to remove their support for the MSC in favor of RFM, which touched off an international debate regarding the differences between the two programs. According to Rice, 27 Alaska seafood companies have announced that they will no longer use the MSC eco-label.

Alaska salmon suppliers say RFM certification is not only robust but also more cost-effective. The transition to RFM has been smooth, said Sunderland.

“There’s lots of demand for our fish,” he said. “Ultimately nothing has changed in the sustainability of the resource. The way the fishery is managed is sustainable and has been for a long time.”

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