Begich to Wal-Mart Execs: Don’t Let a Label Limit AK Seafood
MSC Efforts to Promote Sustainable Fisheries are Burden, not Boost
U.S. Senator Mark Begich showed his determination to protect the Alaska seafood industry from outsider overreach in a letter sent to Wal-Mart president and chief operating officer Michael Duke today in which he urged the company to re-evaluate their decision to only sell seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an organization that has come under harsh criticism by Alaska fishermen for their growing logo fees, inconsistent standards and increasing licensing costs.
The MSC, an organization that certifies seafood as sustainable, was established in 1997 and grew in influence with the help of Alaska’s salmon, halibut and Pollock fisheries.
“The MSC’s effort to promote sustainable fisheries has become more of burden than a boost to sustainable fishing in Alaska,” said Sen. Begich. “Alaskans wrote the book on responsible, sustainable fisheries management. To have to try to comply with the moving target that is MSC standards is not only unrealistic, it’s insulting.”
Because of frustrations with the MSC’s ever-changing standards, Alaska last year initiated a sustainability certification program based on the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and eco-labeling guidelines and independently certified by Global Trust. It is accredited by the International Organization for Standardization which is used by fisheries in Iceland and Canada.
“Alaska was one of the world’s leaders on fisheries sustainability decades before MSC was even founded,” said Begich. “We still are a world leader on fisheries management. We stand by our record of fishery management. We stand by our fish. And Wal-Mart customers should be able to purchase Alaska seafood products—the original sustainable seafood.”
Begich applauded Wal-Mart’s corporate commitment to sustainability but urged the company to consider other reliable and certified suppliers with a proven track record of fisheries sustainability. Sen. Begich plans to further discuss this issue with Wal-Mart in the coming weeks.