Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang is taking issue with the Marine Stewardship Council’s business as usual with Russian client fisheries as the war in Ukraine progresses, prompting a response of “deep dismay” over “troubling accusations” from the Council.
Vincent-Lang expressed his concerns in a May 30 letter to MSC chief executive Rupert Howes, saying that while those of good conscience have reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by seeking to deprive Russia of revenues that could fuel its war machine, that MSC has been working overtime to keep Russian seafood flowing into Western markets.
“This has ensured that Russian-certified fishery products can still enter North America and Europe, largely through China and Southeast Asian seafood processing hubs,” Vincent-Lang wrote. “At the same time, your actions have helped ensure that an important sector of the Russian economy with close ties to the Kremlin has remained fully intact.”
Three days later, on June 2, MSC expressed dismay over Vincent-Lang’s letter, saying it “does not capture the reality of MSC’s current operations relating to Russia and welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
MSC noted while it has condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, that it is a global not-for-profit with a non-political mandate to end the “enormous environmental problem” of overfishing.
MSC acknowledged it does receive logo fee revenue from ecolabel products with certified Russian fish and that many countries have not imposed restrictions on Russian seafood, including important trading blocs like the European Union, due to food security and affordability issues, and that if the MSC ecolabel disappeared from products, it might cause short-tern disruption for retailers who have made sustainability commitments, but that legal trade in Russian seafood would continue.
“What would be lost would be the incentives for Russian fisheries to maintain the environmental performance needed if we are to tackle the challenges facing fisheries and wider ocean health,” MSC said in a statement.
Vincent-Lang criticized MSC’s decision to “preserve its own revenue stream from Russian fisheries while providing indirect support for the Putin regime and his brutal war of aggression all the while applying more strict standards to Alaska’s fisheries.” He urged Howes to end MSC’s operations in Russia.
In his response, Howes said that he has asked for a meeting with Vincent-Lang to explain in person MSC’s relations with Russia.