Binding Arbitration Effort for MSC Salmon Certificate Still Unresolved

Resolution is proving elusive in a dispute between several processors over who gets to participate in a London-based Marine Stewardship Council certificate for Alaska’s sustainable salmon.

In a statement issued late on June 30, MSC officials said they understood that the Alaska Salmon Processors Association, which holds the certification for Alaska salmon, had withdrawn from the binding arbitration process prior to the meeting taking place.

“As a standard setter, MSC cannot directly engage in commercial negotiations,” MSC said. “The final decision on how the certificate is shared is a commercial one which needs to be [made] between the certificate holder and the applicant organizations. The MSC hopes that continued dialogue between the parties will deliver an equitable solution.”

At its June meeting in its headquarters in London, the MSC board of trustees reaffirmed that the MSC program requires certificate sharing and sponsored a mediation session to bring together the Alaska Salmon Processors Association, whose members include Silver Bay Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods, with several other processors, including Trident Seafoods, who want to rejoin the certificate. Mediation efforts failed and MSC’s board then directed both parties to go into binding arbitration and resolve the matter by June 30. The binding arbitration meeting began, but then ASPA withdrew from the meeting. To date ASPA has declined any comment on the matter.

Companies wanting in on the MSC salmon certificate coverage had dropped the MSC certification earlier, and instead got certified through a program offered through the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Now they say they need it to do business with wholesalers in Europe who want to purchase only MSC certified seafood.

According to Trident spokeswoman Stefanie Moreland, North Pacific Seafoods, icicle Seafoods and Trident Seafoods were committed to make the outcome of the arbitration available to all eligible participants, so that every Alaskan producer could benefit from a good arbitration decision.

But, said Moreland, ASPA insisted as a condition of arbitration that all other non-participating companies waive any claim they might have against ASPA or, in the alternative, the three participating companies sign an agreement indemnifying ASPA for claims other non-participating companies might bring against ASPA for it not having the certificate.