Editor’s Note: The following is a response to a Seafoodnews.com editorial. Read more of our ongoing coverage of Alaska and the MSC.

The MSC program has been developed with fairness and non-discrimination at its core. We deeply reject suggestions to the contrary.

MSC Standards are open, voluntary and fully compliant with FAO guidelines for the ecolabeling of fish – a consensus which has been confirmed in independent reviews by Accenture and WWF.

FAO guidelines for ecolabeling of fish

The FAO guidelines for non-discrimination state that: “Access to the services of the certification body should be open to all types of fisheries...” and “Access to certification should not be conditional upon the size or scale of the fishery nor should certification be conditional upon the number of fisheries already certified.” This is absolutely the case with the MSC Standards.

MSC assessment is open to all types, sizes and scales of fishery from any country and organization. Any organization with procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the MSC supply chain can hold an MSC Chain of Custody certificate. Organizations enter MSC certification voluntarily. MSC certified seafood is sourced, sold and consumed voluntarily.

The FAO guidelines also require that standards “Be non-discriminatory, do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade and allow for fair trade and competition.” In meeting this requirement the MSC program allows any organization, at any time to enter MSC assessment. It also sets requirements which facilitate certificate sharing in order to maximize the use of existing certificates by eligible companies, and minimize the number of overlapping certificates. However, as every fishery is unique, we do not prescribe the mechanism by which organizations share certificates.

How this applies for Alaska salmon

The requirements above apply to Alaska salmon processors in the same way as to any other fishery: The opportunity to either join the fishery certificate or initiate a separate assessment has existed for the Alaska salmon processors outside the client group since 2012. However, no such agreement or certificate was sought until early April 2015.

Responding to calls from the applicant groups to assist in finding a fast and amicable agreement for cost-sharing mechanism, the MSC is helping to facilitate this process. The discussions between ASPA and the applicant client group are now underway with the assistance of an independent adjudicator.

Contrary to Sackton’s claims, MSC stands to benefit from certificate sharing as it will result in more MSC product going to market. However, it is our firm belief, and a requirement of our Standards, that these commercial negotiations remain between the client group and the applicant organizations.

There are many examples of MSC fisheries certificates which are shared by a client group consisting of multiple independent organizations. In most cases it has been possible for organizations to find a win-win situation where they are able to share the costs associated with certifying a fishery. Examples include:

• Canadian cold water shrimp and prawn fisheries which, previously MSC certified under multiple certificates, are now working together to achieve joint certification.

• The MINSA North East Atlantic mackerel fisheries which previously achieved MSC certification as seven separate fisheries and are now under assessment as a single fishery.

• The Iceland Sustainable Fisheries (ISF) initiative which is bringing numerous Icelandic fisheries together under shared MSC certificates.

• The Alaskan flat fish fishery and British Columbian sockeye salmon which, like Alaska salmon, include numerous organizations amongst their client group.

We are hopeful that continued dialogue between the parties will deliver an equitable and timely solution.

Read more about MSC Alaska >>

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