The state agency charged with promoting Alaska’s abundance of wild seafood drew kudos from major customers this past week for success in establishing the Alaska brand and for seeking independent certification of sustainable fisheries. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute last year hired Ireland based Global Trust to assess Alaska’s wild fisheries in salmon, halibut/black cod, groundfish, Pollock and crab against the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization code of conduct for responsible fisheries.
The move away from the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification program, ASMI officials said, was an effort to find a more cost effective way to provide third party assurance that Alaska fisheries are well-managed and sustainable. The move came after major processors withdrew their financial support for MSC certification with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation serving as the client for certification.
ASMI’s customer advisory panel, meeting with board members at Girdwood, also voiced concern that development of the Pebble mine, a massive copper, gold and molybdenum project proposed at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, could devalue Alaska seafood. Some committee members noted that after the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico many people became confused about whether seafood from that area was safe and as a result found other foods to eat. After hearing the concerns of buyers from major firms selling Alaska seafood domestically, in Europe and Asia, the committee asked ASMI executive director Ray Riutta to convey their concerns to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell. ASMI itself has not taken a stand on the mine.
The committee proposed that ASMI consider using third party research to find ways to expand its markets, and give retailers and distributors more notice about promotions and work with them on timing of such events.
The committee also proposed that ASMI build alignment strategies and identify allies and be alert in seeking out new transportation and packaging techniques that may be relevant to Alaska.
The committee initially was scheduled to meet for two days in Kodiak, but weather conditions prevented most of those planning to attend from reaching the island, so the session was hastily reconvened in Girdwood.