ASPA backs out of binding arbitration process

Published on
June 30, 2015

The quest for certification under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has taken an interesting turn for Alaska salmon processors wanting back into the fold. According to recent reports, it seems that the Alaska Salmon Processors Association (ASPA) – an MSC-certificate holder for the region – has decided to withdraw from the binding arbitration process called for by the MSC Board earlier this month.

After client group ASPA denied Alaska processors re-entry to MSC certification in May, and following the failure of subsequent mediation sessions held in early June, the MSC Board of Trustees called for all parties to participate in binding arbitration by 30 June. But while three processing companies have taken the bait and agree to go along with the arbitration – North Pacific Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods and Trident Seafoods are all on board – it has proven insufficient for ASPA, which expected the entire industry to partake.

“ASPA now insists as a condition of arbitration that all of the other non-participating companies waive any claim they might have against ASPA or, in the alternative, the three participating companies sign an agreement indemnifying ASPA for claims other non-participating companies might bring against ASPA for it not sharing the certificate,” according to Stefanie Moreland, director of government relations at Trident Seafoods.

Trident Seafoods, North Pacific Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods have all argued that “certificate sharing should be based on MSC Guidance and policy, which calls for equitable and reasonable cost sharing”; moreover, all three processors remain committed to making “the outcome of arbitration available to all eligible participants, not just themselves,” noted Moreland.

“ASPA's public proposal to share the MSC certificate in exchange for 3 percent of the wholesale value of fish sold to customers that use the MSC logo would make participating companies liable for objectionable market access fees to ASPA,” Moreland added. “With uncertainty around major elements of the ASPA proposal, it is unclear what percentage of the 2015 fishery could be assessed.”

Applicants seeking MSC certificate sharing based on MSC published guidelines and ASPA’s published cost sharing statement continue to look for a mechanism to resolve this dispute, Moreland concluded.

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