Wednesday, July 17, 2013

National Park Service Policy on Seafood Selection Questioned

 A National Park Service announcement that said it would only allow the sale of fish deemed sustainable by outside groups that do not currently recognize Alaska’s fisheries as sustainable is drawing criticism from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Murkowski said in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, General Services Administration and National Park Service that while they are relying on the Marine Stewardship Council and Monterey Bay Aquarium to determine sustainability, government policy does provide leeway to permit “other equivalent groups” to be tapped for this service.  Murkowski said she has asked for a meeting to hear their explanation of how this policy was developed, “and to discuss how to ensure that federal policy on sustainability clearly recognizes seafood produced in Alaska.”

Murkowski also noted that this federal policy is “directly inconsistent” with federal guidelines that state “the government does not endorse any particular labeling or documentation system or program over another.”

The National Park Service recently introduced new sustainable food guidelines as part of its Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative, requiring food service operators within these parks to begin offering healthy food options and to incorporate more sustainably sourced ingredients.

The Alaska Constitution mandates that all fisheries in the state must be managed sustainably. In addition, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute in recent years has offered its own third party sustainability program, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization-based Responsibility Fisheries Management certification program, in an effort to assure that seafood from Alaska certified as coming from sustainably managed fisheries maintains a clear Alaska identity.  Seafood processors in Alaska have earlier expressed concern over keeping buyers aware that their product has not only come from sustainable fisheries but was wild caught in the pristine waters of Alaska.

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