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Michael Souza

Alaskan Processors Ditch MSC

By February 4, 2012

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    MSC isn't the only game in town.
    In mid-January, eight of the largest salmon processors let their Marine Stewardship Council certification expire. The group represents about three-quarters of the state's salmon industry.
    Usually, labeling associated with the MSC is used as a marketing tool, letting consumers know that their seafood comes from a fishery that is "sustainable", or "properly managed". That labeling is usually prized given today's "green" awareness. The MSC certification will expire Oct. 29, 2012. So why the change?
    The MSC is a third-party, independent certification agency, and that service isn't free. It costs the applying entity a 0.5 percent royalty on the wholesale value of products that carry its label.
    According to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Alaskan salmon already has Responsible Fisheries Management certification as determined by the Global Trust Certification and is based on the Food and Agriculture Organization's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
    MSC officials have said the ASMI certification program is not as good as its own. It was developed "without broad consultation and stakeholder engagement," which shows a "lack of transparency. [Global Trust] is under contract to ASMI and does the assessment of fisheries ASMI submits. This is not a third-party system."
    According to Jim Gilmore, public affairs director for the At-Sea Processors Association, it's just too expensive and not worth the trouble. Since the association also represents the Alaskan Pollock industry, some are speculating - with good reason - that pollock will soon follow suit.
    Alaska salmon has been making inroads into the British retail market. Apart from the ever-present cans of Alaska salmon, tray-packed Alaska salmon fillet portions and even smoked Alaska salmon are now a relatively common sight on supermarket shelves. However, what part, if any, has MSC certification played in the growing popularity of Alaska salmon in the UK?
    Since Alaskan salmon is caught in the wild rather than farmed, it may not need MSC labeling. Maybe it being sustainable and fresh, and wild, is already understood, to the point where the MSC marketing tool isn't necessary.

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