Alaska Salmon: ASMI vs. MSC? (May 2012)

‘ALASKA’ or ‘MSC’ salmon (or both)? ASMI & MSC: 

A tale of two perspectives re. eco-certification

 

Article by Bertrand CharronSeafoodIntelligence.com Editor,

May 10, 2012

As many of our readers know, the (2nd) re-certification of the Alaska salmon fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) had been halted in January when the MSC’s current ‘client’ – the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) – announced that 8 of its 43 members (but representing ~75% of total harvest volume) were withdrawing their support in favour of the MSC ecolabel. This provoked a massive shockwave of comments in the US seafood industry and in the ‘sustainable fisheries’ movement. Then, on April 20, another group emerged as the new ‘client’ – the Seattle-based Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association (PSVOA), with members mostly in the southeast Alaska  so that the post-October 2012 MSC certification process could resume. We had titled that Alaska processors had ‘backpedalled’. In fact it turns out this is not the case at all, it seems

Since a lot is still ‘up in the air’, SeafoodIntelligence attempted to clarify the situation by interviewing at the ESE key executives involved: MSC Regional Director, Americas, Kerry Coughlin; and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI)’s Seafood Technical Program Director, Randy Rice who reflects on the “many friction points” with the MSC; and argues, among others, that the MSC brand “dilutes” the superior ‘Alaska’ brand. Meanwhile, our queries for clarification to PSVOA executives – despite reminders –  remained unanswered: no response whatsoever… As one can read from the lengthy interviews and comments: the post-October 2012 outlook, too, remains clouded by uncertainty. One thing looks certain: ‘MSC’-certified Alaska salmon may well still feature on retailers’ shelves in Europe, N. America and elsewhere. But it will likely stand next to (non-MSCed) ‘Alaska’ salmon products. The question is ‘in what proportion’ and why…?

Before interviewing the ASMI & MSC executives at the European Seafood Exhibition (ESE) in Brussels two weeks ago (April 26), I had chatted to several significant (French, English, German, Swiss, Asian, etc.) importers/processors of Alaska salmon. It turned out they too had more queries than answers as the entire Alaska salmon MSC certification seemed ‘in the air’ at the time (it still feels that way…). Some were concerned, some not… However, on trying to broach the topic with several Alaskan processors, one could clearly feel un-ease… All the more reason to find out what is the current state of play and try to understand the different positions.

Both Kelly Coughlin and Randy Rice, however, were very generous with their time and in their efforts to clarify their respective organisations’ views. This is gratefully acknowledged.

The views expressed sometimes converged but most often not… One could sense that this is a momentous development for both ASMI and the MSC (this is also reflected in the “core challenges” identified in the MSC’s 2012-2017 strategic plan released yesterday); also seemingly the result of a lengthy strained relationship (going on 10 years+) and that only time will tell whether or not these views will be irreconcilable in the marketplace or perhaps complementary, even if somewhat ‘competing’.

Brand battles, between a rock and hard place…

The ongoing ASMI vs. MSC position also highlights two very different market approaches.

One is conventional, ‘bottom-up’, pro-Alaska & fishing industry-driven. It has built the Alaska brand over decades and knows very well the expectations of its clients. It is astute in its marketing and knows the State’s strong fisheries management history yields many arguments for demonstrating it can compete on “equivalent” terms (by Walmart’s definition) with the MSC. Even if the latter strenously denounces such equivalency.

The other is ‘global & local’ & has created a ‘top-down’ market demand for sustainable fisheries products by obtaining individual commitment from some of the world’s largest seafood buyers/retailers (a strategy which benefits from a highly consolidated food/retail market hungry to demonstrate ‘green’ CSR credentials) who then ‘pass on’/impose their demands & sustainable sourcing expectations to harvestor/processors.

ASMI (www.alaskaseafood.org is a public corporation, a public-private sector partnership, with a Governor-appointed Board of directors; it is Alaska’s official seafood promotion arm.  ASMI promotes all species of Alaska seafood, under the “Alaska” brand.

The eight major Alaska salmon processors which rescinded their support to the MSC programme include Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Alaska General Seafoods, E & E Foods, Kwikpak Fisheries and North Pacific Seafoods.

Read the January 18,2012 ASMI statement – “Alaska salmon processors pull back from MSC, FAO-based certification gets a boost”.

o    “The Alaska seafood industry understands that 3rd party certification is a market tool that provides assurance to retailers and foodservice operators that seafood is responsibly managed. For those customers who make the choice for certification, we are providing a 3rd party certification that equals or exceeds any method currently in the marketplace through the Alaska FAO-Based model,” says ASMI Executive Director Ray Riutta.

MSC (www.msc.org) – a UK-headquartered non-profit charity set up by WWF and Unilever  in 1997- says its mission is to “use our ecolabel and fishery certification programme to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood, and working with our partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis.” It adds that it will among others “Never compromise on the environmental standard we set, nor on our independence”. “We do not certify fisheries, we set standards. To maintain impartiality, the MSC operates a ‘third-party’ certification program. This means that MSC itself does not assess fisheries or decide if they are sustainable.”

Alaska salmon was one of the first fisheries to be MSC-certified in 2000 (and the largest), and was thus instrumental in showcasing the MSC, filling-up its MSC products offering and contributing to making the MSC “the world’s leading wild-caught seafood certification program”. This was long considered a ‘win-win’ (until now, arguably) as Alaskan salmon prices rebounded since then (there are many intertwined reasons for this however: the global rise of the farmed salmon industry – competing with Alaska salmon – helped also create & structure the market demand for salmon [generically-speaking] worldwide). Farmed salmonid production now exceeds wild-caught salmon harvests.

MSC staff gave presentations this week at the 6th World Fisheries Congress in Edinburgh on how MSC can “generate improvements in fisheries performance” and “catalyse stakeholder engagement” through certification and ecolabelling.

Read the January 20,2012 MSC statement regarding Alaska salmon; and the MSC response “with corrections re. ASMI statements” (same day) arguing that it believes the ASMI scheme not to be an “equivalent scheme to the MSC program”; Read also the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) February 15th briefing note on Alaska salmon sustainability, supportive of the MSC.

NB: In the lines below (but excluding the full interview transcripts), when we refer to ‘ASMI’ and ‘MSC’, we refer to quotes and arguments given respectively by Randy Rice and Kerry Coughlin.

NB’: The edited transcript of those interviews/conversations is also below… scroll down…

A) Topical current ‘state of play’ re. the ASMI/MSC positions – and ‘taster’ of the sentiments shared by those Alaska salmon processors opposing Alaska salmon MSC re-certification (current certificate expires on the 29th of October 2012):

Status for the second Alaska salmon MSC re-certification (i.e. 3rd certification 2012-2017):

  • The PSVOA doesn’t have partners in all Alaska fishing areas and is predominantly a single gear-type (purse seine) organisation, points out ASMI. MSC says this is “not relevant” as they ‘simply act as the ‘client’.
  • The PSVOA client will/would enable the entire Alaska salmon ‘fishery’ to be MSC- certified, as it currently is. This means ALL salmon at point of landing will be MSC-certified, no matter who catches/lands them.
  • However, only processors/distributors/retailers who will take part in the MSC’s “chain of custody” programme will be able to sell the fish/product as being MSC eco-certified, and for those products will be able to use the MSC label/logo.
  • No matter who the client for the Alaska salmon fishery is, any and all processors can choose to take part in the MSC’s Chain of custody.

Future (quantified) offering (>Oct. 2012) of MSC-certified Alaska salmon remains unknown at this point. Seemingly 15-20% of total Alaska harvest, MSC hopes for more %-wise.

  • The MSC hopes that some of those 8 processors – who indicated they didn’t want to back the AFDF for being the recertification client – could still be part of the Chain of custody and have MSC-certified Alaska salmon on their offering.
  • ASMI seems confident that none of those 8 processors (~75% of salmon volumes) will change their mind and will not opt to be part of the MSC chain of custody.
  • MSC says “I don’t think it’s all of them..” who have not changed their mind… “some of them probably didn’t really feel fully informed in making that decision”… “nowhere have I seen any statement or anything in any statements from those companies regarding their chain of custody.” Basically: time will tell, there is still time for plenty behind-the-scene moves…
  • The MSC is putting forward the fact that there will be plenty of MSC-certified ‘wild’ salmon: Alaskan (even if it’s a minority share of the total catch), but also from British Columbia/Canada, and Russian & Japanese salmon fisheries are also pending (latter two are also ‘enhanced fishery’; as is Alaska’s).

o    “Something else that’s important to know too is that there are other salmon fisheries in the MSC program… There is also Annette Islands [in Alaska] and British Columbia salmon fisheries, and in Russia… and there are some that are just finishing their assessment process as well. It’s possible that that [MSC-certified salmon] supply will increase if these fisheries are successful following their assessment.”

The above argument is one of those putting some ASMI members ‘off’ the MSC, as it “dilutes” the ‘Alaska’ wild salmon brand – ASMI says.

‘Strained relationship’ between MSC & ASMI:

ASMI takes ‘offence’ at the following:

  • Refers to “strong issues” and “many friction points” going back to Alaska salmon & MSC’s 10 year history.
  • Among them, in the 2005 (1st) re-certification, MSC wanted to establish 62 separate certification for Alaska salmon fisheries. The ‘all-in-one’ inclusive ‘Alaska salmon fishery’ was however retained, still to this day and seemingly for the next re-certification.

Hatchery issues

  • ASMI resents the way the 19 outstanding conditions – mostly relating to science to evaluate the impact of hatchery salmon on [truly] wild salmon, including the impact of ‘straying’ salmon (not returning to the area of origin) –  are portrayed, tainting somewhat the reputation and expertise of Alaska’s salmon fisheries managers who were already looking into these issues.
  • MSC tells us that they simply highlighted what ADF&G biologists were already concerned about…

o    “And this hatchery issue is not one that MSC uncovered or exposed or raised. Within ADF&G, there are biologists who have been saying: ‘We have hatchery issues… and we don’t have enough data to be able to properly manage our hatchery interactions with wild, so we don’t understand it’. So the independent certifier when they did the last MSC assessment: they simply recognised the same lack of data that ADF&G had already identified.”

o    “MSC doesn’t have a philosophy on hatcheries or hatchery interactions. We don’t have an agenda or a philosophy: it’s all about the science on the impacts on wild stocks.”

  • ASMI says: “Mike Sutton of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who considers himself the ‘father’ of the MSC? Absolutely attacked us and denigrated us about the hatcheries… But the MSC is certifying Russian hatchery fisheries and Japanese hatchery fisheries…”

o    NB Ed: See the February 3rd statement by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Executive Director Julie Packard to clarify that “Sutton did not intend to speak on behalf of the aquarium or our Seafood Watch program.

  • For ASMI, casting “conditions” on Alaska hatchery-dependent salmon stocks is somewhat unfair as Russian and Hokkaido (Japan) ‘enhanced’ salmon fisheries are also under assessment.

o    “We took some offence at that, to insinuate that we wouldn’t do that, or that we wouldn’t do that without their oversight; or that the State of Alaska didn’t have the expertise to do that without their oversight: it’s really rather preposterous.” […] “They misrepresented that these wouldn’t be addressed without the MSC that would not be accurate.”

  • MSC says: “It’s not the MSC job, it’s important to know, to say that hatcheries should be 20%, 50%, 70% or 90%… Our job is to say ‘whatever percentage it is: the wild stock needs to be sustainable’.”
  • MSC says: “With those conditions that have to do with hatchery interactions: they’ll be looked at when the new re-assessment is re-started.”

On “Sustainability”, “Certification”, “Fisheries Management” and who does what…

ASMI says “CB [certification body] is influencing fisheries management. CBs are in the business of certification, they’re not fisheries managers. [..] With this model, and the idea of conditional certifications: they can influence fisheries management; That’s their [MSC’s] goal” . By opposition, in the (non-MSC, alternative) Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) model which Alaska and Iceland want to use: “In the RFM model: you either meet the standard or you don’t.

ASMI insists on the “very important point about whether certification is going to become fisheries management, or whether certification is going to remain certification.”

MSC says, without any prompting: “[…] it’s very important to understand that the MSC programme/we’re not fisheries managers and so it’s not our job to manage the fisheries. That’s the job in this case of ADF&G.”

ASMI argues that the MSC standard is “changeable” at their discretion, with the goal posts constantly changing; “but it actually has nothing to do with the legal governance of the fishery.” […] “Again, remember that they’re not fisheries managers and they have an agenda. And some of these agendas are not to fish… [laugh]. To us, this sort of thing is counter, opposite to what FAO calls for and intends.”

MSC says: “MSC doesn’t have a philosophy on hatcheries or hatchery interactions. We don’t have an agenda or a philosophy: it’s all about the science on the impacts on wild stocks.”

On Marketing, Branding & Costs

  • ASMI says the very concept of establishing ‘conditions’ is unfair for well-performing ‘responsibly managed’ fisheries: as these [Alaska salmon being one of them, ASMI argues] and those less well performing fisheries get to communicate with the same MSC logo and message.

o    “in term of the communication to the marketplace, they get to use the same communication statement” […] “everybody gets to make the same statement to the marketplace.

  • ASMI is confident (re. its own market research/customer advisory panel; citing “Waitrose, Bird’s Eye Iglo, Darden, Safeway”] that large Alaska salmon clients want an alternative to MSC, want a “choice”, and that they trust ‘Alaska’ salmon as much as ‘MSC [Alaska] salmon’…

o    “So that’s the model we tried to build for them. It allows them to reach their CSR [corporate and social responsibility] and choice goals.”

o    “[…] yes you’re seeing some pretty sensational stuff in the press right now… We’re not going out and saying a lot… but we’re also getting a lot of positive feedback. You only see the negative feedback in the press. We have many, many retailers, customers, suppliers, processors, secondary processors saying: “this is good, this is healthy. We’re glad you’re doing this. If you have a credible scheme, we’ll accept it”.”

  • ASMI has confidence in the ‘Alaska Seafood’ brand/logo and doesn’t ‘need’ the MSC logo.

o    “A lot of surveys show that consumer awareness on these ecolabels are really quite low. And we’ve done survey work with Americans which show that this [Alaska Seafood logo] has more recognition with consumers than any of them, ecolabels…”

  • ASMI is concerned about MSC ‘dilution’ and MSC “brand competition”:

o    “[…] the other thing is, these eco-labels, the MSC, are becoming brands; and they’re starting to compete as brands. And the MSc will talk about their’ brand awareness’, ‘the MSC  brand’…”

o    “We are trying to promote Alaska: ‘origin Alaska’ […].. we know that has positive cachet with consumers, start with Deadliest Catch… All of that is part of our marketing message. If we allow our brand to become diluted…  just because ‘it’s MSC’: we’ve lost some of our marketing message.”

o    “[…] what we did find was that the origin of our product was becoming obscured and that it’s no longer ‘Alaska salmon certified by the MSC’: it’s becoming ‘MSC certified Pacific salmon’ […]

o    “So we’ve lost some our cachet, we’ve had our brand diluted […] It’s happening all around in Europe.”

o    “This is about brand substitution. That’s not a good outcome for us…”

  • MSC says “[…] we used to partner very well with ASMI in marketing and be that “tool” to have a globally accepted label. And ASMI does a good job in marketing Alaska seafood: MSC is only one tool in its kit”
  • MSC says “Cost is not the issue in this, MSC for one thing has piloted a program to return some of the fees back into paying for recertification. So in the case of Alaska salmon; those fees this time will pay 75% of costs.”
  • ASMI says cost of certification could indeed be an issue.

o     “Humm… I wouldn’t say ‘negligible’. But that’s only one part of the cost. With our model, there would be no cost.”

On Market “Pressures” and “sustainability demands” – MSC alternative & Choice

ASMI/Randy Rice has been to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, to try to convince them that the Alaska salmon fisheries management and certification model/’ASMI scheme’ is ‘equivalent’ to the MSC’s.

[NB: See the 4-page 2011 Walmart re-statement re. “Commitment to Sustainable Seafood” in which it defines what constitute “equivalence” to MSC standards: www.walmartstores.com/download/4737.pdf].

Both ASMI & MSC do not know (or want to say) what Walmart’s position on non-MSCed Alaska salmon. Walmart did not publicise its position (some  European and Japanese retailers said they would stop selling Alaska salmon if it wasn’t MSC-ed).

NB: Read also: Quotation of the Day: “It’s game over” for Alaska salmon processors if MSC “convinces” retailers like WalMart… (10.02.2012).

ASMI admits that some its non-MSC supporting members are taking a ‘huge gamble’ and that they may indeed “potentially” loose customers as a result.

MSC says “We would like to see them be responsive to their buyers and continue to be able to label the fish and not, sort of obstruct the process/programme by being the break in that link that prevents anyone being down the line from being able to use that logo.”

Both ASMI & MSC refer to “common sense”:

For ASMI, it means that retailers wouldn’t want to drop Alaska salmon which they’ve known and purchased for decades, just because it is not MSCed. All the more so since Alaska salmon fisheries management is “consistent with FAO guidance”.

For MSC, it means that Alaska salmon processors should avail of the MSC chain of custody and market their salmon/products with the MSC logo, since retailers want it…

Both ASMI & MSC refer to the benefits of giving consumers “choices”:

For ASMI, as in ‘choice of alternative labels’, not all being MSC-labels. It believes the Alaska brand is stronger than the MSC brand.

For MSC, as in what’s MSC-certified is guaranteed ‘sustainable’ – on the strength of its third party independently certified “very vigorous” scientific programme, and this is a choice many consumers want to assumingly make. “Then they’ll have a way to say ‘I can buy that sustainable seafood.”

MSC confident that: “The market will sort itself out. The market will decide if these buyers want MSC-certified salmon and they’ll have ways to get it.

ASMI, in summary, challenging the perceived constraining MSC process & environmental NGOs scrutiny is good for Alaska seafood, is valuable because:

  • It makes marketing sense, it makes branding sense,
  • It gives control back to the fisheries/Alaska legislator and state-managers (Alaska fisheries managers don’t need ‘others’ to tell them how to manage their own fisheries, as the very “sustainability” principle is written in Alaska’s Constitution).
  • It counters the anticipated lonf-term devaluation of the Alaska Seafood brand.
  • It maintains ‘Alaska salmon’ market access.
  • It stops the perceived increasing costs linked to MSC certification and potentially other ‘pay-to-play’ ecolabels.
  • It stops the buck at who actually has the expertise to manage the fisheries.
  • Its RFM model can be an alternative
  • This was highlighted by theAlaska Governor, Sean Parnell addressing seafood decision-makers at the International Boston Seafood Show in March 2012:

o    [The Alaska fisheries industry] cannot, as a matter of principle and form, tolerate a situation where a single private entity, on the basis of a changeable private standard, has sole authority to decide who can sell seafood to the public and who cannot. We need reasonable options for the marketplace to avoid a monopolistic lock where consumers and fishing communities lose.

  • An arm-wrestling tactic which… one could speculate…  if the logic ‘sticks’ in the marketplace, could lead ASMI/other Alaska fisheries to possibly want to emulate such move at time of other MSC re-certification….

ASMI believes the fisheries sustainability movement is evolving now

o    “It’s evolving to the point where choice is actually a good thing: it brings efficiency into it, drives more environmental improvement on the water.”

… and that they are taking a stand, now.

*********

B) Transcript of Interview with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Americas Director Kerry Coughlin @ESE on 26.4.2012

 

SeafoodIntelligence: ‘How big’ is the PSVOA/ how much Alaska salmon tonnage do they represent ?

Kerry Coughlin: That actually isn’t relevant. The reason for that is the PSVOA intends to serve as an umbrella organisation that acts as a client for the entire Alaska salmon fishery: representing all five species, all of the unites/geographical areas. So what they represent isn’t relevant in this case … So other companies and organisations that want to support the certification can work for them. That’s identical really to what you have now where the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation [AFDF] serves as this client, with 43 companies that supported that. And eight of those made the decision to withdraw, but the remaining companies did not make that decision and wanted to maintain their MSC certification, or at least the majority of them.

This new arrangement will serve in the same way and replaces AFDF.

I understand these 8 or 9 processors haven’t changed and still want to remain out of the MSc process… 

I don’t think it’s all of them..

You believe some may have changed their mind and might hop-on to this ‘new train’?

I think that’s possible : some of them probably didn’t really feel fully informed in making that decision…

If all of the fish is certified ‘sustainable’ in the assessment then, when it goes to point of landing, it’s all still certified as ‘sustainable’. In order to carry the MSC logo and label, the companies that process or handle the fish have to have chain of custody. The purpose of that obviously is traceability: to ensure there is no substitution, that there isn’t Russian salmon being sold as MSC-certified when it’s not [etc.]. So those processors, if it’s going to have the MSC logo, there can’t be a break in the link.

There would have to be maintained chain of custody if their buyers want MSC label which I think many, many, do, that was the issue… Germany, North America, Japan… many buyers.

What did those companies that pulled out really want: pull out of being the MSC certification client? or pull out of the chain of custody ?

That’s a question that they all have to address. That’s not MSC’s decision by any means. They’ll all have to make that choice. We would like to see them be responsive to their buyers and continue to be able to label the fish and not, sort of obstruct the process/programme by being the break in that link that prevents anyone being down the line from being able to use that logo.

Didn’t those processors representing over 75% of all Alaska salmon harvested decide to “pull out”: That means they decided to pull out of the chain of custody as much as being behind the client for the Alaska MSC certification?

I don’t know that… All I know is the fact that I’ve seen which is the letter saying they’re withdrawing support – the eight companies – and that subsequently the board of AFDF – the current umbrella organisation MSC client- said their board voted to say they couldn’t continue to support the MSC process.

But nowhere have I seen any statement or anything in any statements from those companies regarding their chain of custody, so I can’t speak for them.

If the fishery is [re]certified, then all of that fish is certified. At point of landing, then the chain of custody starts.

At the moment we have a position where almost everybody in volume terms is part of that chain of custody, and we still don’t know what is going to happen: we could have a situation where some Alaska MSC-labelled salmon and some Alaska non-MSC labelled salmon could stand next to each other…

Yes, it could under the MSC programme. But that’s not what… the entire fisheries is being put forward for certification.

NB: But what’s more important, insists Kerry Coughlin, is that buyers will have availability of MSC-certified, and eco-labelled as such, Alaska salmon from those companies that do maintain their chain of custody. “And there are a lot of other companies [which didn’t seemingly pull out of the MSC process].

We’ve really valued our partnership with all the Alaskan companies, we really have… and so it’s our hope that if they didn’t want to work with the fisheries [client]  we could very well continue to work with them on the chain of custody side. We’d welcome continued partnership with all the companies; including the big processors, but also the mid-sized and small processors as well.”

[…]

Generally-speaking, how is the MSC awareness growing in North America, perception of consumers: Have you saturated the market? [jokingly…]

What’s interesting about MSC development is that I would not expect at this stage for the consumers to be very well aware. We are not surprised or shocked by that, because the programme has really grown because the seafood industry participants, everyone but mainly the main buyers and retailers – WalMart, Carrefour, Loblaw and many others – those are companies that have made commitments: they don’t want to contribute to the depletion of the oceans and they want to make sure they’re sourcing sustainably.

So, the reason the MSC has become the world’s leading global standard for seafood is that those companies realise that the MSC is a very vigorous scientific programme that looks very carefully at the stocks of the fish; has independent peer review, is transparent and open to stakeholders; so they value and understand the process, and so they use it…

It’s really been Business to Business [B2B] primarily that’s grown the MSC programme. But now we’re in a period where it is shifting. Because if you think about it, when the MSC first was starting, it’s a little bit of chicken-and-egg: you go to retailers who say ‘if I can’t find any MSC-certified fish, how do I commit to your programme and I get none’; and to go to the fisheries and say: ‘well you should really be certified’ and they say ‘why: no buyers’ asking’… so we got though that sort of conundrum and difficulty, to where the retailers were seeing the value of it, and therefore the fisheries started coming in.

So now we’re at a point where we’ve been in operation for about 12 years and where there’s a lot of MSC-certified fish in the supply-chain, a lot or retailers are on-board with it; and so, now is the time to begin to involve the consumer in this. Retailers didn’t want to market to their consumers is they only had one product on the shelves, or not very much. They needed to see where they were, build-up their supply.

Now in North America, we’re starting to see a real shift. Every month, we’re getting new retailers or chains onboard. And in the United States, it’s different as in Europe, we may have 20 companies that have thousands and thousands of stores…  the scale is so much bigger. Right now, we might have 1500 stores that are promoting in their fresh/wet cases, it’s not just packaged or canned products; and they’re actually actively promoting to their customers We’ve actually created a partner-marketing-resource kit, marketing materials designed just for their needs. We use their type of materials, it’s been very popular.

[… On how the MSC needs to focus on the catering/restaurant sector now]

“We haven’t really started to roll-out the food service sector – though of the big ones already started making commitments, Sodexo, MaDonald in Europe…”

All of that will enable the consumers to make choices. Then they’ll have a way to say ‘I can buy that sustainable seafood. We’re ‘on-track’ to move forward and the growth is steady…

Do you have a 20/30-year plan? [Jokingly…]

About the furthest we can go is five [years] in any practical way. So we have just completed a new five-year strategic plan for the whole organisation. Even within a 5-year plan, you can only put good numbers for about three years, but it’s a good way to plan.

[PS: The latest 2012-2017 MSC 5-year plan was released yesterday, May, 9 2012/ Read: Trends & Forecasts: MSC’s new 5-yr strategic plan focuses on strengthening (i.e. not losing) partnerships & new markets… ]

It was argued that those Alaska salmon processors withdrawing could spend their money “better elsewhere” than on the MSC programme, and achieve a better return on investment. Ray Riutta [Executive Director] of ASMI has clearly said the MSC programme was only ‘just another marketing tool’

Cost is not the issue in this, MSC for one thing has piloted a program to return some of the fees back into paying for recertification. So in the case of Alaska salmon; those fees this time will pay 75% of costs. The cost to industry in this recertification is insignificant… completely insignificant: it is not an issue.

[…] we used to partner very well with ASMI in marketing and be that “tool” to have a globally accepted label. And ASMI does a good job in marketing Alaska seafood: MSC is only one tool in its kit: so that it’s also certified to this global standard. But it’s apparent that ASMI wanted to develop its own industry-based standard or programme, but that programme is not equivalent or is not the same as MSC because it’s not independent third party and it doesn’t examine all of the same elements.

Did you not see things coming when they [ASMI] declared their intention of commencing this alternative standard/scheme two years ago [March 2010]?

[no particular answer…]

‘Nobody’ looks at the ‘enhancement’ dimension of the Alaska salmon fisheries, and these bring a lot of sustainability issues in play; some of which you rightly identify in your ‘conditions’. To sum up, it seemsthat the MSC ecocertification programme/ you are not as demanding as you could be: there are 1.5 billion hatchery salmon being released in the wild yearly and there is a huge body of scientific work showing that this [hatchery releases] have or can have an impact on wild stocks. However, if nobody studies the topic, there won’t be any scientific evidence one way or the other. But why not make these 19 conditions to certification in fact pre-conditions. But since 2000 they haven’t been ‘closed’…

No, they weren’t there in the first report.

Maybe not in the first report, but in the second report…

You’re absolutely right, and you’re very well informed… […]

The MSC sometimes ‘straddles’ on the line between fisheries and aquaculture; and it there is a big ‘buffer zone’ between what can be truly considered purely ‘wild’ and purely ‘aquaculture’, the entire ‘enhanced fisheries’ segment.

In this case there is no question whether or not the Alaska salmon fisheries are wild or enhanced, they are enhanced, no question…

This is a very important issue and a very important point and you have rightly recognised this. But it’s very important to understand that the MSC programme/we’re not fisheries managers and so it’s not our job to manage the fisheries. That’s the job in this case of ADF&G.

And this hatchery issue is not one that MSC uncovered or exposed or raised. Within ADF&G, there are biologists who have been saying: ‘We have hatchery issues… and we don’t have enough data to be able to properly manage our hatchery interactions with wild, so we don’t understand it’. So the independent certifier when they did the last MSC assessment: they simply recognised the same lack of data that ADF&G had already identified. So they were saying in the last recertification: ‘for the purpose of this certification, that’s a problem’.

Because what the MSC assessment looks at is the impact of the hatchery on the wild stock. It’s not the MSC job, it’s important to know, to say that hatcheries should be 20%, 50%, 70% or 90%… Our job is to say ‘whatever percentage it is: the wild stock needs to be sustainable’.

And so, if there is impact on the wild stock from hatchery production that calls into question the viability of the wild stock, then the assessors need to have an update there. With those conditions that have to do with hatchery interactions: they’ll be looked at when the new re-assessment is re-started. The certifier and the certification team will be taking into account some of those same issues. They might look at some of those and say ‘well, the way that condition was written isn’t applicable now’ or they might say ‘it’s very relevant and look at it in the new one’.

But there is no sort-of automatic carry-over; but they will be taken into account. And this issue with hatchery interactions will be taken into account. It’s my understanding that the State [of Alaska] has recognised this themselves and now have taken action as a result.  They’re going to undertake a three-year study on this. There is an interim one due in the summer also… so it’s possible that the MSC certifier will look at that and say ‘Well… the studies are under the way to bring us the data, therefore this can [be] a go-ahead condition until we get that data’. So perhaps in the annual surveillance audit, as data comes in and interim reports, they can look at that and see what it is telling them about interactions. So I don’t know that: it’s up to the certifier…

MSC doesn’t have a philosophy on hatcheries or hatchery interactions. We don’t have an agenda or a philosophy: it’s all about the science on the impacts on wild stocks.

One of the reasons the MSC programme is structured the way it is, is to reduce the ability for people to have opinion and agenda. It’s one reason why these people are independent certifiers: they bring assessment teams of independent scientists with expertise in different aspects and areas of fisheries.

Stakeholders are engaged, conservation organisations and others who have knowledge of the fishery are engaged, industry is engaged.. all the sectors are engaged in this. So it’s a very open process.

All of the work in the report is peer-reviewed by a completely separate set of scientists. And at the end there is still an opportunity to have the process reviewed by an adjudicator. Not re-scoring because you don’t want one person to override all of that checks-and-balances; But it’s one more check-and-balance to make sure the process was adhered to.

But if you put all of that in place – it’s one of the things that I appreciate about the MSC standard is: it’s so easy to get opinions and –as you say – the twist-science to come out and say whatever you want it to say… and that process avoid that as much as I’ve seen any other program do it.”

MSC and ASC overlap or how to define a ‘fishery’ and an ‘aquaculture operation’

On the topic of the MSC certification of ‘enhanced fisheries’ which are construed by the “fisheries” themselves as actually being “aquaculture” operations: notably some bivalve shellfisheries such as suspended net/rope-grown mussel aquaculture ventures (or ‘enhanced fisheries’ by MSC standards) which are now MSC-certified or undergoing assessment (in Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, China…). The author tells Kerry Coughlin  of the discussion held the day before with Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) CEO Chris Ninnes who confirmed to SeafoodIntelligence that indeed, the certifications do sometimes overlap and that, indeed, some MSC-certified shellfish ‘fisheries’ could* theoretically seek also ASC-certification.

*This, however, seems very unlikely from a marketing perspective as – given the choice (which they are) – most will choose to be deemed a “fishery”/”wild-caught” rather than ‘farmed’; and having two seemingly antagonistic certifications would be counterproductive, costly, and confusing… The point is: the very definition of ‘fishery’ and ‘aquaculture’ is open to debate and even leads to court cases. ‘Wild’ is also a term which carries great marketing potential (as in  ‘wild’ Alaska salmon, whether hatchery-born & enhanced, or ‘truly’ wild) but could be construed as sometimes being misleading if and when it omits to mention the aquaculture dimension (eg. hatcheries) of – not “truly wild”-‘enhanced’/’ranched’/’augmented’ fisheries… The terms ‘wild’ and ‘wild-caught’ should not to be confused: this disctinction is afterall also at the heart of the 19 “conditions” of the MSC certification of the Alaska salmon fishery still open/pending… What is the impact of hatchery salmon on wild salmon populations?…

KC: There won’t be a lot of that but you’re right: there are some areas where if the spat is taken from a wild and taken to a more conducive environment to grow it could still come under MSC…

But if you ask yourself ‘What really is the issue with that?’: there isn’t one, because the important thing is that that fishery is operating in a sustainable manner and not harming the marine ecosystems.

[disagree somewhat]…  but you have to be aware that some people use your ‘message’ for another function: to demonstrate the sustainability of a fishery versus that of aquaculture, and often oppose the two,. The definition as to what constitutes a fishery legally, or biologically, or environmentally is ‘open’. A lot of Alaska salmon stocks could not be listed under the ESA [the US Endangered Species Act] for that very – enhancement policy – reason…

… Something else that’s important to know too is that there are other salmon fisheries in the MSC program… There is also Annette Islands [in Alaska] and British Columbia salmon fisheries, and in Russia… and there are some that are just finishing their assessment process as well.

It’s possible that that [MSC-certified salmon] supply will increase if these fisheries are successful following their assessment.

Did Walmart take a position: when the initial statement said that all the wild-caught seafood would need to be ‘MSC certified, or like’: does – to your knowledge – the ‘or like’ cover the ASMI scheme?

Walmart has not made a statement…

The market will sort itself out. The market will decide if these buyers want MSC-certified salmon and they’ll have ways to get it… they’ll do that…

Will there be enough supply?

Well… we don’t know, supply can shift around, and the volumes between the processors can shift around. But again, it’s our hope that all these Alaskan processors stay with the programme, for that reason: to allow those companies that want MSC certification

You’ve got MSC-certified fish [speaking post 2012, and assuming the Alaska salmon fisheries get certified for a third 5-year period under the declared PSVOA clientship]: What would be the reason and the logic for blocking that if your market wants it and it’s available and only you stand between… I don’t know what would be the business reason…

There are [other] reasons out there…

Yes… but again, I can’t speak for those companies…

 **********

 CTranscript of Interview with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI)’s Randy Rice – Seafood Technical Program Director – @ESE on 26.4.2012

 

Randy Rice:  [Firstly] These guys who have made this announcement [pointing to the AFDF January 20 PR displayed on my IPad] represent somewhere between 75% and 80% of the total catch. All of them, still right now are saying ‘we’re not going back’. The new client PSVOA is probably going to represent a very small amount of product. Because even some of the other – probably 20% –  won’t be in there….  So, we’re not talking about a lot of fish. [Secondly] It’s very unclear… they’re a single-gear type : purse-seine. So are they really going to certify the whole fishery when in fact these guys aren’t there to process those trolled-fishe or those gill net-caught fish… so it’s very, very unclear.

What happens to the salmon ? Well the good news is : ‘nothing. And they will continue to be managed in the same way that they have been.

It’s often lost in this discussion: MSC didn’t make Alaska salmon sustainable. Alaska salmon were being managed sustainably ; were managed, after the MSC certified the fishery, sustainably ; and will continue to be managed sustainably even if the MSC isn’t there because it’s not only the way it should be : it’s in our State Constitution.

Unfortunately, this whole sustainability thing. A little bit of the goal – which to give NGOs: they really brought this issue in the main light and they deserve credit for that but unfortunately, the movement has kind of gone out into the weeds, its all about logos and labels and everything…   that’s not really the goal. The goal is good fisheries management and this is what we must not lose sight of and any credible scheme that is able to demonstrate or verify whether good management is happening or not should be accepted.

SeafoodIntelligence: So, as it stands at the moment, the core of the Alaska salmon industry, if we can call 75% of catch as representing the ‘core’, doesn’t seem to be interested in  never mind having the fishery MSC-certified or using the [MSC label] by going through the chain of custody, which they could do : they – or the AFD&G – don’t have to be the client… It’s still the ADF&G that’s going to manage the fishery

[…no response either way]..

Isn’t there some sort of market pressure, Walmart being the n°1, but others have also committed to sourcing MSC-only certified [for the wild-caught] seafood… so are you not going to loose those customers ?

Potentially.

But that’s a huge gamble, isn’t it ?!

Yes it is.

These salmon processors, with that in mind, you have to understand… they didn’t make that decision lightly. So you must then ask yourself :’ what were such strong issues that they would take such risks and take this stand ?’. In recognising that, they may lose some customers. And you’d have to then go back and look at more than 10 years of history of the salmon industry in Alaska and the MSC and the many friction points over the years that took place ; and how much they tried to work with the MSC. And, you know… tried to get certainty that the goalposts weren’t going to keep moving on them as time went by. Which it did, from the first certification to the first recertification in 2005.

Are you talking about those ‘conditions‘?…

Conditions.… in fact they wanted 62 separate certifications.

In 2000 it was one fishery, in 2005, they came back and said ‘well we think it should be 62 separate certifications’: it’s unacceptable !

At the same time, when you look at the fact that you have 5 [Pacific salmon] species and when you look at the size of Alaska, it’s more than one fishery…

It’s more than one fishery, but it’s managed in a collective umbrella fashion which states, ‘okay for this system we need these conditions and these opening and these regulations, and these restrictions…’ But that’s all managed under an umbrella management structure.

[…] You’d have to say, looking at the history of the State of Alaska salmon fishing: the State has done pretty well, for 50-60 years…

Some of these restrictions are about wanting to assess what these interactions between hatchery fish and wild stock; and about the impact of straying hatchery fish also…was that a sore point?

… It would not be accurate to say that the State of Alaska and the fisheries managers weren’t looking at those things until the MSC said to look at them. And in fact it’s part of the business and practice of managing a fishery that has hatchery enhancement. So, of course, they were looking at nearly all of those things to start with. The MSC just turned around and said: ‘Well these are our conditions: you should come with science looking at straying’: they’re doing 90% of it anyway.

And I’ll give you a piece of clarification on this…

The second thing to realise is that under the RFM – the Responsible Fisheries Management – certification that we hired Global Trust to undertake for us, of course they’re looked at there as well, because you couldn’t do a credible certification of a fishery if you didn’t put those in, on the enhancement issue. So on our website, you will find that assessment report for salmon; and in Clause 14.1, 14.2 and 14.3 you’ll find and you’ll see: they’ve examined this hatchery issues as well. They misrepresented that these wouldn’t be addressed without the MSC that would not be accurate.

But that has kind of been put out into the press.

I haven’t read that, and I’m interested in the issue…

The MSC made statements, and the NGOs made statements […]

We took some offence at that, to insinuate that we wouldn’t do that, or that we wouldn’t do that without their oversight; or that the State of Alaska didn’t have the expertise to do that without their oversight: it’s really rather preposterous. Because after all, a certification body, may it be Moody Marine or Global Trust, or anybody else: they’re not in the fisheries management business: they’re in the certification business. And certification is about credible expertise and objectivity in making measurements against a standard; it’s not about how to manage fisheries.

Which gets us to something you were just about to mention: which is this business of those conditions of certification. Which is problematic, because when you get into that…. [drawing on a piece of paper to illustrate] let’s say this is our standard and you’re evaluating various fisheries against that standard. Some of them are really well managed and meet that standard easily, the kind of A+ fishery; but then maybe you have a B- kind of fishery which didn’t quite make it to the standard but they’ll say: ‘Well, we’ll certify you with these conditions and you’ll have to improve in the next five years’. So they didn’t actually meet the standard, but in term of the communication to the marketplace, they get to use the same communication statement as this fishery [showing the A+ one]; “Oh, well we’re [MSC] certified”…

And then maybe you’ve got one over here [showing a fishery well below the standard] that’s got a long way to go and will have a list of 73 conditions, but they still get to make the same communication statement to the marketplace: ‘we’re certified’.

Are you saying that you stood more in that [A+] group than in that [the B-/ C] group

Yes.

And that you resent the fact that… 

To think that we wouldn’t do this; and there is others – if you look on the MSC website, and you’ll have seen all these statements about the hatchery conditions… you’ll see that they’ve certified Iturup Island, the Russian [pink & chum] salmon fishery, Hokkaido [Fall chum salmon] fishery is in assessment right now. Those are all hatchery-enhanced fisheries: It’s preposterous to think they’re doing a better job than what we’re doing!

Is that what they’re saying?

Well, did you see the statement from Mike Sutton of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who considers himself the ‘father’ of the MSC? Absolutely attacked us and denigrated us about the hatcheries… But the MSC is certifying Russian hatchery fisheries and Japanese hatchery fisheries.

So you have to ask yourself ‘why is that?’…

What happens now is your standard is ‘this wide’ [referring to previous graph/drawing]; […] everybody gets to make the same statement to the marketplace. And, these conditions that are being specified by the certification body to achieve certification are now becoming fisheries management conditions and fisheries policy conditions. So now, the CB [certification body] is influencing fisheries management. CBs are in the business of certification, they’re not fisheries managers. Although they may be fisheries biologists, that’s not where their expertise is.

Maybe they are trying to progress fisheries management science as well?

Well, that’s a point…

With this model, and the idea of conditional certifications: they can influence fisheries management; That’s their goal. But fisheries management should remain the task of the competent authorities who are designated by law to manage fisheries.

In the RFM model: you either meet the standard or you don’t. But they don’t issue conditions to achieve certification. That then means that the CB stays in the role of certification and doesn’t migrate into the role of fisheries management.

[….]

That’s not to say there shouldn’t be a role for the NGOs, I’m not saying that at all! It’s just what should that role be…

The NGO community and that model, say the ‘MSC model’, tries to use certification for governance issues. And that’s not really where we think it should go, okay?…

And, if you look into the FAO guidance documents on this, what they will tell you is that you need to be inclusive of stakeholder in the fisheries management process, in the governance structure of the fisheries; which is what in fact we do in our system in the US.

[… Showing me slide highlighting the US fisheries governance structure]

Our system is democratic and inclusive. What is happening right now is that irrespective of what took place over here [showing diagram] we’re finding impediments to marketing because these are becoming barriers to the market, and these are privately-held changeable standards. For example the MSC standard can be changed to their discretion, but it actually has nothing to do with the legal governance of the fishery. And all suddenly you can find yourself – just as we’ve talked about – losing your customers.

What happens then, if you don’t meet those [conditions] is that  they [fisheries not certified] can suffer increased costs, loss of market access and so forth, even though they may be participating responsibly and legally in a sanctioned fishery. […] Some of our guys may lose customers.

What they should in fact be doing is participate in the governance structure to bring about the change they believe should be happening.

[…] A better role for this community [sustainability conscious NGOs] is help establish governance structures like this [the US/Alaska’s], and that is fact what the FAO Code of Conduct calls for. [Citing Article 6.13]:  “States should, to the extent permitted by national laws and regulations, ensure that decision making processes are transparent and achieve timely solutions to urgent matters. States, in accordance with appropriate procedures, should facilitate consultation and the effective participation of industry, fishworkers, environmental and other interested organizations in decision making with respect to the development of laws and policies related to fisheries management, development, international lending and aid.” So the FAO says, ‘include them in the governance structure’.

You would say that… But they [MSC] have understood that it’s easier to convince a couple of people in Bentonville [Walmart headquarters, in Arkansas] to influence millions of people: their efforts and monies can also be better spent lobbying.. it’s a different approach…

Is that a good thing though that the market power would lie within a changeable standard that they can change at their discretion?

Again, remember that they’re not fisheries managers and they have an agenda. And some of these agendas are not to fish… [laugh]. To us, this sort of thing is counter, opposite to what FAO calls for and intends.

But knowing that you’ve got Walmart and others that have now pledged their commitment to MSC, it is a massive gamble [not to go for MSC certification]… Now I didn’t hear Walmart make a statement saying they would stop buying Alaskan salmon [if it wasn’t MSC-certified]

… No, Walmart didn’t say that…

But they are perhaps waiting to see what is happening…

And actually, if you’ve noticed the language. Two or three years ago people were saying ‘we’re going to source MSC-certified seafood”, Now people are saying ‘MSC-certified or equivalent’… because they realise they need flexibility in their sourcing.

So, you have been to Bentonville convincing them [Walmart] that you are ‘like’ MSC-certified…

I have! But whether or not they’ve accepted our model or not: I don’t know, that remains to be seen.

But it’s important that we believe in what we were told by many of our customers. Before we set out on offering this alternative certification programme, we have something called the customer advisory panel. Some of our largest customers from Europe, North America, Asia… Waitrose, Bird’s Eye Iglo, Darden, Safeway… a lot of big Alaska customers and we asked them: ‘what do you want us to do?’. And they said: ‘We want an alternative’, ’We want choice’; ‘We don’t need another logo, we don’t need another label’: ‘We need in some case, in some markets, third-party verification that we’re being responsible n our sourcing’.

So that’s the model we tried to build for them. It allows them to reach their CSR [corporate and social responsibility] and choice goals. Choice is good in just about anything: it creates efficiency and cost-effectiveness. And there is choice of standards in almost all walks of life.

As long as the market is open for choice…

Well, some of these big customers were asking us for that. I’ll be honest with you: yes you’re seeing some pretty sensational stuff in the press right now… We’re not going out and saying a lot… but we’re also getting a lot of positive feedback. You only see the negative feedback in the press. We have many, many retailers, customers, suppliers, processors, secondary processors saying: “this is good, this is healthy. We’re glad you’re doing this. If you have a credible scheme, we’ll accept it

It’s our job to help, communicate, educate about what this alternative is. But the feedback is more positive than negative.

One gets the sense that the cost of certification could also be an issue…

Yes…

However, due to the fact that it is/would be/come the second re-certification, the cost would be slashed by 70-75%, so the cost issue would be negligible…

Hum… I wouldn’t say ‘negligible’. But that’s only one part of the cost. With our model, there would be no cost. We’re not in the logo-selling business. We want a brand, we want to promote Alaska, that’s our mission. But, we’re not charging for that, we’re not trying to generate a revenue stream for that.

That’s a big, a fundamental difference! And the other thing is, these eco-labels, the MSC, are becoming brands; and they’re starting to compete as brands. And the MSc will talk about their’ brand awareness’, ‘the MSC  brand’…

We are trying to promote Alaska: ‘origin Alaska’, ‘this is the story of Alaska’… we know that has positive cachet with consumers, start with Deadliest Catch… All of that is part of our marketing message. If we allow our brand to become diluted…  just because ‘it’s MSC’: we’ve lost some of our marketing message. And in fact… what we did find was that the origin of our product was becoming obscured and that it’s no longer ‘Alaska salmon certified by the MSC’: it’s becoming ‘MSC certified Pacific salmon’ that you’d no longer knew was from Alaska.

So we’ve lost some our cachet, we’ve had our brand diluted […] It’s happening all around in Europe.

[…] This is about brand substitution.

That’s not a good outcome for us… You probably know this, but we also know that at a consumer level, most consumers in most markets aren’t thinking about ‘sustainability’: they’re thinking about price, taste, quality, value, nutrition… all of these things … and they walk into the fishmonger’s: there’s all these fish in there and they don’t want to go: ‘Okay: Is this one sustainable?’ They’re expecting that the fishmonger would take care of that for them. They don’t want to taks themselves with thinking about that! They trust their fishmonger.

[…]

We’ve had a number of retailers and customers, since this ‘controversy’… we’ve asked point blank: “if we’re not MSC-ed, will you drop us / our line, are you going to de-list us?” and they’ll go: ‘No. Of course not! Because this is a wonderful product, we know its responsible, and our consumers want it”. In reality, there is way more demand for wild salmon than there is product.

There is another point about this issue of certification and fisheries management. I’m trying to make this distinction because it is actually a very important point about whether certification is going to become fisheries management, or whether certification is going to remain certification.

[Showing me the picture of a MSC-certified Alaska salmon packaging bought in the UK, with label on the back citing among others: “[…] fisheries stocks are managed in co-ordination with the State of Alaska”] Now… who’s managing the fishery?!

I see why you would take offence to this kind of statement…

And the State of Alaska would absolutely take offence with that because they were managing this fishery sustainably even before the MSC even existed.

This is of course badly written and would offend you…

This is why were saying that this movement is not showing who’s a responsibly managed fishery, its becoming about ownership of brand and brand management.

[… Showing me ‘Alaska Seafood’ triangular logo] We have had this logo for about 30 years and we have done surveys with consumers about what that means etc… A lot of surveys show that consumer awareness on these ecolabels are really quite low. And we’ve done survey work with Americans which show that this [Alaska Seafood logo] has more recognition with consumers than any of them, ecolabels…

We did surveys both in the UK and the US asking ‘Which of those organisations do you trust?’ for information, verification of sustainability… So we would put in Marine Conservation Society in the UK, in the US we might put the Monterey Bay Aquarium; the Marine Stewardship Council [MSC], Friend of the Sea… so forth and so on… And we put the ‘Safe Seafood Council’.

Which is a bogus organisation that we made up: doesn’t exist. The Safe Seafood Council had more consumer awareness than the Marine Stewardship Council in both the UK and the US!

So that shows you where the consumers’ mind is at. They don’t want to task themselves with thinking about it.

[…] You may have seen the quote the the [Alaska Governor] made in Boston [at the International Boston Seafood Show]:

[The Alaska fisheries industry] cannot, as a matter of principle and form, tolerate a situation where a single private entity, on the basis of a changeable private standard, has sole authority to decide who can sell seafood to the public and who cannot. We need reasonable options for the marketplace to avoid a monopolistic lock where consumers and fishing communities lose.

All of that said: some risk here, maybe some loss of customers and all of that and so forth… It’s all very real but we still believe that common sense will prevail here, and that this is a solid approach because we know we’re consistent with FAO guidance, we believe the reference point is the FAO guidance. It’s not whether or not it is equivalent to the MSC. It’s whether ‘are any of these schemes equivalent to the FAO guidance?’.

But all of that said: there is a paper by a gentleman at the New England Aquarium: Michael Tlusty. Once the ENGO community understands what he’s done with this paper, we believe they’re gonna see causative reasons to support our model, MSC, and perhaps even more. What he shows in his paper is that environmental change, improvement ‘on the water’/ for the environment is better with multiple certification processes than with only one. So, many people – WWF and others – only supportive of the MSC; at some point, are going to recognise that, actually, we can achieve our goals of improving things on the water, improving fish stocks around the world with different models  and multiple certification models because it drives more environmental change. And that’s going to be a big change.

[…]

We believe this [fisheries sustainability] movement is evolving now. It may have started now with one eco-logo, one they’d like to think of as a gold standard and so forth and ‘everybody’s gotta be this way’. It’s evolving to the point where choice is actually a good thing: it brings efficiency into it, drives more environmental improvement on the water. So, this is a journey that we’re on…

When you say that “common sense should prevail’ – do your believe that Walmart could conceive not selling Alaska salmon in America?

I don’t really believe they will: would that make sense? Lots of people really like it!

When I say “common sense’, you need to step back for a second and think about all the logos… Does it make sense for a retailer to walk away from a source that’s quality, high value, that your customers want, you’ve been using it for years, they love it, you know it’s responsible, it proven responsible… Does it make sense to walk away from that and not offer it as part of your product line?!

[…]

We believe this movement is evolving. We believe absolutely that we can demonstrate that our fisheries are managed in accordance with international expectations, guidelines and so forth… And we believe this has to make sense too. Not just for the NGO community and the retailers, but also make sense for the supply sector too. This has to be practical and workable.

Ray Hilborn, of the University of Washington, is presenting some very interesting observation which I think sooner or later the NGO community with latch onto and realise. What he shows is that fish – wild caught or aquaculture fish – actually in terms of environmental costs, is one of the best food on the planet. If you look at poultry, beef, pork… You can look at carbon, but you know what’s actually more important: water! How much water does it take to produce a pound of beef compared to a pound of fish? He looks at pesticides, at biodiversity indexes… You have wild-caught fish helping to sustain biodiversity and if you look at organic vegetables: you take out an acre of land which had maybe a hundred species on it, and now you’ve got one!…

[END]

Mr Rice says that the environmental community needs to steps back and looks at this larger picture and asks ‘How are we going to feed these billions of people on the Earth?’ [he argues they will realise the benefit of eating responsibly managed fisheries, including (MSC or non-MSC certified) Alaska seafood]…

*************

D) Selected readings on the 30,000+ article SeafoodIntelligence.com News Database

(a non exhaustive selection, among the many hundreds of relevant articles…)

NB: Links to those articles may refer to the ‘old’ portal and currently be invalid until we re-launch the archive database…

See also: Walmart’s 2011 Re-statement re. Commitment to Sustainable Seafood in which it defines “equivalence” to MSC: www.walmartstores.com/download/4737.pdf

***********

Today, also on Twitter/Salmoskius:

Alaska fish managers/ASMI took offence @ insinuation they wouldn’t have looked @ #hatchery impact without MSC oversight http://is.gd/ASMIvsMSCsalmon

#Alaska or MSC #salmon (or both)?: A tale of two perspectives re. #ecolabels SeafoodIntelligence ASMI & MSC interviews http://is.gd/ASMIvsMSCsalmon

“this hatchery issue is not one that MSC uncovered or exposed or raised”, ADF&G biologists did – MSC Dir. Americas – http://is.gd/ASMIvsMSCsalmon #Alaska #salmon

“So we’ve lost some our cachet, we’ve had our brand diluted” ASMI Dir reflecting on 10yrs of #Alaska #salmon MSC cert. http://is.gd/ASMIvsMSCsalmon

ALL Alaska #salmon  likely to be MSC-cert @ point of landing >Oct2012. Question is: how much MSC on offer @ retail?http://is.gd/ASMIvsMSCsalmon

 

Sustainable Seafood Intelligence, News & Consultancy for Stakeholders of the Global Seafood, Fisheries & Aquaculture sectors with a focus on issues re. industry Transparency (#Top35Salmon #Top100Seafood), Economic, Social and Environment Sustainability, Ethics (#SeafoodEthics #SustainableSeafood #TransformSeafood #ResponsibleSeafood #SeafoodIntelligence), CSR/RSE & Politics… Perceptions of issues (negative & positive) impacting industry’s Social License to Operate (SLO) and acceptance. Farmed salmon & global seafood industry Sustainability Reporting benchmarks…. Multi-stakeholder sustainability thinking & analysis applied to seafood…