Copper River Seafoods is planning to withdraw support for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) from 2014 unless it certifies all of Alaska’s salmon fisheries.
In 1996, Scott Blake, a fourth generation commercial fisherman, partnered with three Cordova, Alaska fishermen to establish Copper River Seafoods. The primary driver was to protect the fishermen of Alaska by ensuring the opportunities they had would be available for the next generations of Alaskan fishermen.
Today, Copper River Seafoods processes and sells seafood from nearly every region of Alaska and is one of the largest Alaskan-owned seafood processing companies in the state.
Over the years, there have been many external market threats to the sustainability of the company, one of the most significant being the issue of sustainability certification.
Sustainability certification has helped to raise consumer awareness for the fisheries improvements that are being made globally. However, it has also caused issues for model fisheries like Alaska by preventing market access for companies that choose to support state and federal fisheries management rather than paying to participate in an approved certification scheme.
Alaska’s fisheries were among the first to be Marine Stewardship Council certified because Alaska has always been widely regarded as the model for sustainability. Alaska’s fisheries are healthy, not because of certification, but rather because since 1959, the Alaska Constitution has mandated sustainability, putting sound science and enforcement before commercial interests.
Copper River Seafoods has supported both the MSC and the FAO-Based RFM models at the request of customers whose corporate sustainability policies required third-party assurance that Alaska’s fisheries were responsibly managed. Supporting both models and advocating for choice has always been important to Copper River Seafoods so no single certification would have control in the marketplace.
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