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Gov. asks Wal-Mart to keep buying AK fish

Posted: July 22, 2013 - 2:00pm  |  Updated: July 23, 2013 - 12:06am
Chum salmon are lifted on a conveyor belt as they go from boat to processing line at Taku Fisheries/Smokeries on Monday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Chum salmon are lifted on a conveyor belt as they go from boat to processing line at Taku Fisheries/Smokeries on Monday.

Gov. Sean Parnell has appealed to Wal-Mart to encourage the retailer to continue to carry Alaskan salmon.

Parnell’s July 16 letter to President and CEO Michael Duke comes after Wal-Mart last month warned suppliers that they were required to retain certification from the London-based Marine Stewardship Council.

In January 2012, much of Alaska’s salmon packing industry decided to not renew an agreement with the fisheries certification program. Industry officials said the MSC had lost its value after too many fisheries were being certified as “sustainable”.

The program has received criticism for certifying fisheries that don’t meet guidelines for sustainability under the condition that those fisheries become sustainable within five years.

“Alaska has been in the business of sustainability long before the MSC’s existence, managing salmon fisheries to high standards since statehood,” Parnell wrote. “We have strongly supported the processing industry in this decision to allow their MSC certification to lapse …”

In a June letter to Alaskan suppliers, Wal-Mart said one way processors could bypass MSC certification was to work with a public fishery improvement project coordinated by a nongovernmental organization.

Shortly after processors dropped the MSC certification in 2012, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute started to develop its own certification program based on standards set by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Spokesperson Tyson Fick said ASMI has reached out to Wal-Mart to discuss the Responsible Fisheries Management program.

Fick said the MSC certification requirement allows Wal-Mart to intrude on fisheries management, to devalue the Alaska brand and to create uncertainty about prices by putting Alaska’s fisheries in the same category as foreign fisheries which might not be as well-managed.

“If you can control access to the marketplace at the bottleneck where it goes from processors to the buyers, then you can impose your will on fisheries management by controlling access to the market,” Fick said. “What you have is people saying, ‘I don’t need the Alaska brand anymore. I need the MSC certification and I can get that from Russia.’”

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