Wednesday, April 17, 2013

ASMI Program Gains Edge in Seafood Certification

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute announced April 16 that about 80 percent of Alaska’s 2013 wild salmon harvest will be certified by Global Trust, an Ireland-based third party certification program. A limited supply of Marine Stewardship Council certified Alaska salmon might also become available, pending completion of the MSC assessment process estimated to be finished in July, according to ASMI.

Alaska salmon was first certified as sustainable by MSC back in September 2000, and recertified in November 2007, according to the MSC website.

Since then, said ASMI’s Tyson Fick, a number of suppliers backed out of that program. The whole fishery will be certified under the Global Trust’s United Nationals FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) based Responsible Fisheries Management Program. In order to make the certified claim, however, a supplier must have chain of custody verified as is required by the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, he said.

Joe Bundrant, board chairman of ASMI and executive vice president of Trident Seafoods, said ASMI’s dedication to sustainability predates any eco-label. “In fact, Alaska is the only state in the US to have it written into its constitution,” he said.

One veteran processor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that more than a decade ago, when Alaska first opted for MSC certification of salmon, MSC was a fledging entity that thought it could develop a business by certifying fisheries. Major processors saw this certification as a great marketing tool, the processor said.

The downside, said the processor, is that third party certification makes the certifier the decider on the credibility of the provider.

Instead, he said, seafood providers should educate their customers on the state’s constitutional mandate of sustainability.

ASMI’s RFM model, nonetheless, has strong support from United Fishermen of Alaska, the Juneau-based trade association that represents 37 fisheries organizations statewide.

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