Federal agencies drop MSC for salmon certification

London-based organization not required to label Alaska's fish as 'sustainable'

Federal agencies no longer need third-party certification of salmon sustainability, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office reports.

When the National Park Service refused to sell Alaskan salmon in its concessions operations unless a third-party sustainability group certified it, Murkowski introduced legislation that would prohibit federal agencies from using third-party non-governmental certification organizations like the London-based Marine Stewardship Council.

In January 2012, eight of the major players in Alaska’s fishing industry — which together bring in about 72 percent of the state’s harvest — said they were no longer going to seek certification from the MSC. Some in the fishing industry said the cost of MSC certification wasn’t worth it and that Alaska’s salmon resources are sustainable by virtue of being Alaskan — sustainability is written into the Alaska Constitution, MSC critics said.

Jim Browning, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation executive director, said at the time, “the majority of these processors now feel it is time to redirect their resources toward a broader marketing message.”

Earlier this year Sen. Mark Begich and Alaska fishermen pushed back against Wal-Mart and the food services company Sodexo when they said they wouldn’t carry Alaskan salmon unless it was certified by an organization like the MSC. Wal-Mart has since backed off from that position, hinting that a certification program from the state-funded Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute might be good enough.

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