October 22, 2013
Early last year, Alaska’s wild salmon fishing industry decided to end its partnership with the seafood world’s most prominent sustainability certification group in favor of its own labeling efforts. But the move quickly set drew a reaction from customers, as WalMart and others said they would no longer buy Alaskan salmon without the independent check.
Now, the Alaskan salmon industry appear to have won the fight, recently saying that it was standing firm in its decision to drop the outside certification group.
For years, the group, the Marine Stewardship Council, has been the blue seal of approval for seafood products. The fast-food chain McDonald’s relies on the council to verify the origins of its fish sandwich.
Then in 2012, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute created its own label in collaboration with an Irish group, Global Trust, reasoning that the state’s reputation for sustainable fishing was good enough for most environmentally conscious consumers. The state’s seafood marketers took the step to save money and reduce what they considered to be outside interference in a thriving business.
But someone forgot to check with Walmart. The world’s largest retailer told its suppliers in June that it would no longer buy Alaskan salmon sourced from fisheries that were not certified by the stewardship council or an equivalent group. The company noted in a statement that, “Walmart has not yet determined any other standard to be equivalent to M.S.C.”
The reaction of Walmart, a major customer for Alaskan fisheries, was like a slap in the face. The company, in essence, suggested that Alaska was ducking independent certification of its fishing practices.