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Fishermen Pick Up Dropped MSC By Alaskan Salmon Processors

As 27 Alaskan salmon processing companies drop their commitment to the MSC certification, fishermen and buyers are urging them to continue producing the sustainable accredited salmon. The Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association (PSVOA) has now become the MSC client for Alaskan salmon on behalf of the fishermen who still wish to continue to promote their sustainable practices by using the MSC logo.

The Alaskan salmon fishery was one of the first fisheries to gain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in 2000. For more than 50 years previously, the fishing ground had been sustainably managed separate from MSC. On this basis, along with dismay about increasing cost for logo fees and inconsistent standards, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), representing the processors, decided to drop its registration to the program.

A recent announcement by MSC revealed that the vast majority of the Alaska salmon fishery had cleared one of the final hurdles towards getting re-certified to the MSC standard. ASMI reacted in stating that, the bulk of the fishery will not be selling MSC salmon. In fact, over 80 percent of the Alaska salmon supply will not carry the MSC eco-label because most of the processing companies will not re-certify for MSC CoC.

Alaskan fishermen realize the benefits that come from being MSC certified and want to continue receiving a premium price for the fish they land. When the PSVOA decided to undergo re-assessment for MSC last year after processors dropped their commitment, Bob Kehoe, executive director, said: “MSC certification of the Alaska salmon fishery has been a benefit to Alaska fishermen by helping to provide stable markets and prices to fishermen.”

Many Alaskan fishermen protested outside Wal-Mart stores following the recent news that the US’ biggest retailer may drop its commitment to the MSC certification. In 2011, Wal-Mart committed to an intention to only retail seafood that was certified as sustainable by MSC. However, since this vow, the supermarket chain has not sold one seafood product bearing the blue MSC logo.

With the support of retailers, Alaskan fishermen believe processors can be encouraged to reinstate their registration to the eco-label, increasing the amount of Alaskan salmon sold in the US carrying the MSC certification.

In Europe, the majority of canned Alaskan salmon has become MSC. Unlike tuna, salmon catch is extremely seasonal and related to precise locations, therefore the sustainability and responsibility of fishing activities is way easier to monitor. Alaskan salmon processing companies may feel pressure from EU countries to re-certify to MSC in order to insure products can carry the label on their shelves.

Michael Cerne, executive director for ASMI, said: “It’s important that buyers understand and not be confused by the recent Alaksa salmon certification announcement. The announcement of MSC certification of Alaska salmon should not be interpreted as a change in the decision by the dozens of processing companies that no longer sell and support MSC Alaska salmon.”