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In Policy Revision, Walmart Says 'Yes!' to Wild Alaska Salmon

Alaska fishing families applaud decision by Walmart to bring the gold standard of sustainable seafood back to consumers

24 January 2014 (Anchorage, Alaska)—In a major victory for U.S. consumers and Alaska fishermen, Walmart today announced an update to its sustainability policy that will ensure wild Alaska salmon, the gold standard of sustainable seafood, is back on store shelves at the nation’s largest grocery chain. Alaska Salmon Now, a grassroots organization of hardworking Alaska fishing families, U.S. consumers, and other representatives from across Alaska’s seafood industry, applauds the decision.

In its new policy, Walmart has agreed to expand its sustainable seafood policy to accept certification from the United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO)-based Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program, which currently certifies wild Alaska salmon.

“We are incredibly pleased that Walmart is doing the right thing. For years, Walmart has acknowledged publicly that wild Alaska salmon is among the world’s most sustainable seafood, and this decision finally ensures that their policies reflect this reality,” said John Renner, Vice President, Cordova District Fisherman United and spokesperson for Alaska Salmon Now.

The policy update follows months of negotiations and discussion—including U.S. Senate hearings, protests, and in-person meetings—over Walmart’s controversial seafood sustainability policy, which previously only allowed Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified seafood to be purchased. Nearly the entire Alaska salmon industry voluntarily severed ties with MSC, a private European organization, in 2012 due to concerns about the organization's increasingly high-priced and questionable business practices.

Alaska's seafood industry is the state’s largest private-sector employer, and contributes an estimated $16 billion to the national economy. A recent nationwide poll commissioned by Alaska Salmon Now showed widespread support among seafood consumers for Alaska seafood, with 66% rating its quality very high, and an overwhelming 97% viewing it as more sustainable or as-sustainable as other seafood.

“Walmart’s decision will have a positive effect on millions of people,” Renner added. “Consumers can now rest easy knowing the world’s best and most sustainable seafood can be found at Walmart, and countless fishing families in Alaska like mine can now comfortably plan for the upcoming salmon season.”

Walmart’s policy now aligns with that of nearly all traditional U.S. buyers who have continued their purchases of Alaska salmon with or without the MSC endorsement, leaning instead on the decades-long track record of Alaska's sustainable management program—which includes extensive local, state, and federal oversight-- and the RFM endorsement. The decision to expand its policy follows similar recent decisions by the U.S. federal agency General Services Administration (GSA) and Sodexo, the primary supplier of food services to the US military, to modify their "MSC-only" policies. Some purchasers in Europe and elsewhere, however, continue to rely solely on MSC-certification.

“This decision should reaffirm to the seafood purchasers around the world that there should not be just one arbiter of sustainability,” said Greg Gabriel, Executive Director of the Northwest & Alaska Seiners Association. “Alaska has proven time and time again that our fisheries have been sustainable long before MSC, and retailers everywhere should be proud to provide sustainable Alaska salmon to their customers.”

Worldwide, Alaska has consistently been recognized for its sustainable management success. Since its inception, MSC had consistently recognized the excellence and effectiveness of Alaska's fisheries management system, ranking it above programs in British Columbia and Russia and calling it "among the most comprehensive and intensive of any fishery in the world". The EDF Seafood Selector named Alaskan salmon "Eco-Friendly and Ocean Best". The Pew Charitable Trust and Ocean Conservancy stated in a recent report that "success in managing and rebuilding America's fisheries ranks among the leading achievements of marine resource management in the world."

About Alaska Salmon Now!
"Alaska Salmon Now!" is a grassroots organization comprised of American consumers, hardworking fishing families from across Alaska, and other representatives from Alaska’s seafood industry dedicated to promoting consumer access to the world's gold standard of sustainable seafood, Alaska salmon.

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