In-state company can now certify fisheries products

Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2006

ANCHORAGE - A company in Alaska can now certify that processed fish is coming from a sustainable fishery, such as black cod and halibut.

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Before Alaska Quality Seafood was certified, processors had to fly certifiers up from the Lower 48 or Europe in their quest for an eco-label.

"It became very cumbersome, very expensive for local producers," said Hugh Bertmaring, business manager for Alaska Quality Seafood. "They didn't want to do it."

The certification is part of a decades-long movement within the Alaska seafood industry.

to improve the quality of its catches and market them as wild, tasty and eco-friendly.

The "sustainable fish" label comes from the Marine Stewardship Council, a nonprofit that developed the independent, international fishery certification program and eco-label to decrease overfishing.

Alaska Quality Seafood is now a certification subcontractor for Scientific Certification Systems, a California company accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council.

"This is a voluntary program all driven by market dynamics," said Chet Chaffee, vice president of environmental programs for Scientific Certification Systems.

"Anybody in the market of selling seafood is trying to make customers happy," and major retailers in England, Germany, France and Switzerland want to offer their customers eco- labeled seafood, Chaffee said.

Certified fisheries range from Australian rock lobster to South African hake to Alaska salmon.

"Salmon fisheries in British Columbia are going through certification, as are California salmon fisheries," Chaffee said.

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