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Begich Hearing Prompts Fish Policy Shift

GSA drops provision against Alaska Salmon; Wal-Mart, Sodexo Support Sustainability
(video available)

The federal government announced it is dropping guidelines for federal purchases of seafood that could have excluded Alaska salmon and other sustainable seafood from national parks and military bases in advance of a hearing announced last week and chaired by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard.

Following the hearing the National Park Service (NPS) indicated they fully support the new guidelines. Wal-Mart Senior Director Jeff Rice also voiced support for sustainability standards, indicating sustainability was important for their customers and their corporate vision. 

“I welcome GSA’s announcement that they are changing their misguided guidelines in favor of relying on our national standards for fishery management which are considered the best in the world,” Begich said.  “I’m also pleased with comments from Wal-Mart and Sodexo that they are reviewing their sustainability standards and their desire to continue to source salmon and other seafood from Alaska.”

Sen. Begich invited major buyers Wal-Mart and Sodexo to discuss their support for sustainability standards and the continued purchase of Alaska salmon. Sen. Begich has written multiple letters in recent months challenging a corporate decision by Wal-Mart and Sodexo, a supplier to the Department of Defense (DOD), to rely solely upon the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainability certification. {video clip here}

Alaska salmon producers dropped MSC certification last year due to changing standards and increasing costs of the program and could have been excluded. Sen. Begich also inquired about getting the word out to make sure other agencies comply with the guidelines {video clip here}

“U.S. fisheries are among the best managed in the world, thanks to strict standards of sustainability set by the Magnuson Stevens Act. In Alaska, sustainability is even written into the state constitution,” Begich said.  “We produce more than half nation’s wild fish, and we do it right. Alaska fishermen just proved it again, landing a whopping 270 million salmon this past summer, eclipsing the previous record catch by almost 50 million fish.”

Wal-Mart is working with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute on its Responsible Fisheries Partnership program for salmon and want to continue to stock Alaska seafood on their shelves.  {video clip}.  Sodexo Senior Vice President Michael Montelongo also indicated that Sodexo will continue to make purchases of Alaska seafood and are open to working with the government to comply with the new standards.

Also attending the hearing were Samuel D. Rauch III, Assistant Administrator (Acting), National Marine Fisheries Service, Darren Blue, Assistant Commissioner for Facilities Management and Services Program at the GSA, Stefanie Moreland Special Assistant to Office of Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, and John Connelly President of the National Fisheries Institute

Full video of Sen. Begich’s comments during the hearing are available here.

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