On the eve of what is forecasted to be a very robust wild Alaska salmon harvest, sustainable certification issues, plus a substantial inventory of unsold canned and frozen 2014 salmon, have many processors scrambling to meet market certification demands.
Several years after major processors of wild Alaska seafood opted to switch from the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainable seafood certification program to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Association’s Responsible Fisheries Management certification program, those processors are seeing an economic need to now engage in both certification programs, but getting back into the MSC fold could be a problem.
Add to that concern the current strength of the dollar over the euro, the yen and the ruble, which reduces the buying power of European and Japanese buyers, and the selling power of sockeye salmon buyers in Russia.
One Alaska processor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a European client who had been buying headed and gutted chum salmon at $2 a pound said with the current value of the euro to the dollar he would have to pay $1.20 a pound for the same value.
That said, most major European buyers have been so successful over the years in selling MSC’s promise of certifying only sustainable fisheries that now they want to offer their customers only MSC certified products.
When most of those major processors opted out of MSC, Silver Bay Seafoods resisted, and now, as the existing client group, gets to decide whether to let the others back into their group. Negotiations are under way to determine if the client group and applicant companies can work this out.
Stefanie Moreland, director of government relations and seafood sustainability for Trident Seafoods, said that the companies seeking to join the current MSC Alaska salmon client group also asked that the client provide opportunity for any other interested Alaska salmon producer to join. Each producer or direct marketer will need to make their own decision on whether there is value in joining the client group and establishing chain of custody certification for use of the MSC program, she said.
Also, not all European markets are the same, said Moreland, speaking on behalf of Trident, Ocean Beauty, Peter Pan, Icicle, Alaska General Seafoods, Leader Creek and North Pacific Seafoods, Triad Fisheries, KwikPak Fisheries and Yukon Gold.
“For some customers, Alaska salmon meets their objective-based sustainability policies. Others require third-party certification and are satisfied by use of the MSC program or the Alaska RFM program, she said.
Of those some customers demand use of the MSC label, and yes, there is a fee associated with that. Others just require MSC certified product without use of the MSC label. Some customers have found the MSC label to be a distraction from their own, while others promote it, she said.