National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and


Last month, NSF International announced they were adding Aquaculture Stewardship Council's chain-of-custody certification to their portfolio. The ASC is an independent body that has piggy-backed on the globally accepted sustainability standards of the Marine Stewardship Council. The Lynnwood, Wash.-based Seafood Services segment of NSF has been performing chain-of-custody certifications for MSC for 11 years, so it stands to reason they would add ASC certification to their lineup. MSC, after all, has proven to be a very lucrative business model.

While one could argue that MSC's ecolabel is in high demand because the company has made great strides in marketing it to retailers, whose compliance, if nothing else, appears to drive consumer demand, there's no arguing that the world is more and more accepting of farmed fish.

So it would seem that the best way to distinguish the good (meaning, sustainable) from the bad (meaning, well, you know what that means) would be to create an ecolabel that helps consumers buy only the best, "safest," and sustainable seafood across the board, whether they're looking to buy farmed or wild.

Today I spoke with Tom White, assistant director of NSF's Seafood Division, about the market changes that would inevitably result from a label that is essentially MSC standards (which apply only to wild fisheries) as applied to aquaculture. I asked him what the driving force was behind this new label. "On a personal level I think it's just another option for the consumer as far as sustainability is concerned."

This is a perfectly acceptable answer if indeed consumers are clamoring for sustainable seafood. But is that what they really want? Studies have shown that at least Stateside, seafood buyers first want it to taste and look good. Then they would like to think it's not going to poison them. And then it occurs to them that it may or may not be a sustainable product.

So why are there so many ecolabels out there? I believe the answer is that they generate revenue. And in order to keep them generating revenue, the creators of the ecolabels must continue to sell the idea of certified sustainability to the retailers, who believe they're doing the right thing for their consumers.

But the simple truth is, we can do all of that with well-managed wild fisheries. For how long? I'm not sure. I hate to be the grim reaper, but I fear what the future holds with an influx of finfish farms and the perils they inevitably hold for populations of wild fish.

Inside the Industry

NMFS has awarded 16 grants totaling more than $2.5 million as part of its Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.

The program supports the development of technological solutions and changes in fishing practices designed to minimize bycatch and aims to to find creative approaches and strategies for reducing bycatch, seabird interactions, and post-release mortality in federally managed fisheries.


Abe Williams, who was elected to the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association board last spring, has been selected as the new president as of September.

Williams fishes the F/V Crimson Fury, and is president of Nuna Resources, a nonprofit that supports sustainable resource development in rural Alaska, including fighting for an international solution to issues raised by the proposed Pebble Mine project.

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