ASMI blasts letter supporting MSC

Published on
February 21, 2013

Some European retailers have responded positively to a letter asking them to support Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the Alaska salmon fishery.

However, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) refuted the letter, saying it contains “numerous unsubstantiated statements and misrepresentations” about Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification.

In the letter, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Wild Fish Conservancy, and other NGOs, cautioned European retailers against accepting that salmon with “less rigorous fishery certifications” are equivalent to salmon certified by MSC’s eco-label. The “less rigorous fishery certifications” refers to the RFM/ Global Trust program that is being championed by the state of Alaska and ASMI as an alternative to MSC.

“We urge European seafood retailers concerned about sustainability standards to encourage their suppliers of Alaskan salmon to recommit to the MSC re-certification process, which is currently the only globally credible means of demonstrating their seafood comes from a sustainable source,” the organizations said in a statement.

However, the FAO-based RFM certification is very comprehensive and the NGOs are misguided, according to Mike Cerne, executive director of ASMI. “…They aren’t worried about RFM being credible, as much as they are worried that other fisheries will walk away from the MSC brand. This is called brand protectionism and attempts to ensure there is a monopoly on fishery certification. RFM offers seafood certification choice in the marketplace,” Cerne wrote in a letter refuting the NGOs’ letter.

In addition, Alaska fisheries were responsibly managed before the MSC eco-label and they will continue to be managed responsibly, Cerne wrote.

Since the letter was sent to 200 European retailers and NGOs more than a week ago, a few retailers in the U.K. and Germany responded and said they support the Purse Seine Vessel Owners’ Association (PSVOA) MSC re-certification process. “They said they look forward to meeting more with us at the Brussels show. We are going to ask them to maintain a MSC chain of custody through their organizations,” said Greg Taylor, independent consultant for the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

The NGOs sent the letter because the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and ASMI have been “pressuring” PSVOA to drop their re-certification process with MSC, according to Greg Knox, executive director, SkeenWild Conservation Trust. “We are concerned about the lack of support of ADF & G and the major processors in Alaska…and the pressure from ASMI. We felt that our only option is to go to the market and expand our efforts there,” Knox said.

The U.S.-based NGOs are talking with European NGOs about ways they can further the pro-MSC campaign, Knox added.

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