An objection has been submitted over the Final Determination Report by Intertek Moody Marine (IMM) that concluded 13 of 14 units of the Alaska salmon fishery met the Marine Stewardship Council standard for sustainability.
The objection was filed by four conservation groups from two countries: Washington-based Wild Fish Conservancy and Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Skeena Wild Conservation Trust and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, all based in British Columbia.
The groups claim that Alaskan fishermen intercept too many salmon from endangered populations as the fish migrate through Alaskan waters on their way to spawning grounds in British Columbia and the continental U.S. The official objection focused on the Southeast Alaska “unit of certification” where the groups would like the MSC to apply conservation conditions that would address the overfishing of wild Chinook, sockeye, and chum salmon, and require fishermen to report the numbers of steelhead trout that they take as by-catch and keep or discard.
“The Alaskans are good at not overfishing their own wild salmon runs”, said Kurt Beardslee of the Wild Fish Conservancy, “and we’d just like to see them extend the same conservation ethic to some of these salmon runs in BC, Washington, and Oregon that are in serious trouble.”
The group stated the Chinook salmon fishery is considered the most problematic, for its impacts on endangered runs. The report that MSC has accepted from the certifying body acknowledges that over 96 percent of Chinook salmon caught in the Southeast Alaskan fishery originate from rivers outside Alaska.
“The Southeast Alaskan Chinook fishery is actually a fishery for non-Alaskan fish, and it harvests those fish at levels far surpassing what fisheries scientists consider a maximum sustainable yield,” said Aaron Hill of Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “People who buy Alaskan Chinook (or king) salmon need to know that they could actually be buying a fish that was from an endangered run in BC, Washington, or Oregon,” said Hill.
The next step in the MSC objections process is for an Independent Adjudicator (IA) to be appointed who will then review the documents submitted and determine whether to proceed to a formal objections hearing.