Major Processors Pulling Out of MSC Salmon Certification Program

Eight major primary processors of wild Alaska salmon are phasing out their financial support for the Marine Stewardship council salmon certification program.

The board of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), the client for the certification process, voted on Jan. 16 to maintain certification only through Oct. 29, after the eight processors said they were withdrawing support.

The reason for the decision by Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Alaska General Seafoods, Kwik’Pak Fisheries, E & E Foods, and North Pacific Seafoods was not disclosed. The group represents about 75 percent of the salmon harvest.

Industry sources said that the current required annual surveillance audit, plus recertification for the next five years, would cost the industry approximately $400,000, based on a rate of $500 per million pounds, and annual harvests totaling about 800 million pounds. AFDF took over clientship for MSC certification of Alaska salmon in December 2009, after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said it would no longer carry out the duties required of the client to verify the sustainability of the salmon fisheries.

Jim Browning, executive director of AFDF, said that the individual companies noted that MSC certification has been welcome and valuable for more than a decade. “MSC has offered independent affirmation of what the Alaska industry and fishery managers have held since statehood, that Alaska salmon fisheries are sustainably managed,” Browning said.

However, the majority of these processors now feel it is time to redirect their resources toward a broader marketing message.

Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas regional director, said the organization regrets the decision. “We hope this fishery will re-enter assessment, maintain the market advantage of MSC certification, and continue to showcase their sustainability.”

Coughlin said the number of fisheries and supply chain companies using the MSC program continues to expand worldwide, and consumer appreciation for the MSC ecolabel on products is increasing.

Ray Riutta, executive director of ASMI, noted that the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute also provides a third party program for certification of sustainable fisheries, one that Riutta said equals or exceeds any method currently in the marketplace.

Arni Thomson, president of United Fishermen of Alaska, said that UFA fully supports the processors’ decision, and believe it is in the best interest of the Alaska salmon fishery.