Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, has taken the international food contractor Sodexo to task over its decision to purchase only seafood certified by the London-based Marine Stewardship Council. Sodexo USA has multi-million dollar contracts with the federal government, including the Defense Department, and feeds millions of people daily through its federal and private company contracts in the US.
Begich took issue in his recent letter to George Chavel, president and chief executive officer of Sodexo USA, over the company’s reliance on MSC, an organization that has been harshly criticized by Alaska fishermen for their growing logo fees, inconsistent standards and increasing licensing costs.
“Alaska wrote the book on sustainable fisheries and we don’t need outsiders to tell us how to manage our stocks,” Begich said.
This is the second time in recent months that Begich has challenged a corporate decision to rely solely on the Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification. In late June, Begich wrote to Walmart CEO Michael Duke, questioning the necessity of the MSC label for Alaska fisheries. He reminded Duke that Alaska was already a world leader in sustainable fisheries management for decades before MSC existed.
An aide to Begich said that Sodexo had notified the senator’s office on Aug. 20 that the company is looking into the certification issue. Walmart officials, meanwhile, have agreed to meet with Begich and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Industry in September to discuss the same issue.
MSC, established in 1997, has grown in influence with the help of Alaska’s salmon, halibut and pollock fisheries, Begich said.
Last year, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute initiated its own third party sustainability certification program based on the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and eco-labeling guidelines and independently certified by Global Trust. The program is accredited by the International Organization for Standardization, which is used by fisheries in Iceland and Canada. To date more than 40 seafood entities have met the requirements of the ASMI program.