WALMART has to balance political pressure and living up to its “sustainable” seafood expectations (Sept. 2013)

First posted 06.09.2013

We are optimistic that Walmart will recognize Alaska fisheries as sustainably managed,” said Susan Bell Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED) who attended yesterday’s meeting between a delegation from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), State Officials, and senior executives from Walmart and Sam’s Club at their Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters to discuss Alaska seafood and “sustainability” certification.

The comment comes after WalMart indicated it would ‘soon’ stop buying Alaska salmon unless it was certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC: a programme held internationally as the leading eco-certifier for wild-caught seafood, from which the majority of the Alaska salmon industry pulled away last year…) “or equivalent”.

NB Ed: The pledge to only sell MSC (“or equivalent”) certified seafood has been taken by many retailers worldwide, and WalMart was one of the first to adhere/lead to the principle in 2006.

The current dispute revolves around what can be construed as an ‘equivalent’ to the MSC standard: so far WalMart sees… none when it comes to salmon. This is understandably infuriating Alaska, which is concerned about loosing the lucrative Walmart market (…and others). A “gamble” the State-supported Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute however took knowingly.

Whilst very significant commercial interests do lie with the Walmart decision, so would a “compromise” of its position have consequences on “sustainable” seafood far beyond the Alaskan borders… The State doesn’t have a “problem” with the fact that the Alaska pollock fishery (one of the world’s largest fisheries) is MSC-certified. But it pulled out from the re-certification of salmon fisheries’, for which ‘conditions’ were creating a stir…

There is a lot more at stake than Alaska’s unilateral interest… Other retailers, the global seafood industry, eNGOs and consumers are watching…

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