Fisheries
3:18 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Alaska's Salmon Fisheries are One Step Closer to MSC Certification

Sockeye smolt from the Kvichak River. The smolt might one day return to be harvested and maybe carry the MSC sustainability label.
Sockeye smolt from the Kvichak River. The smolt might one day return to be harvested and maybe carry the MSC sustainability label.
Credit Michael Link

Another step has been taken towards getting Alaska’s commercial salmon fisheries recertified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Last fall the MSC sustainability certification of Alaska’s commercial salmon fisheries was allowed to lapse after most of the major seafood processors that operate in the state pulled their support. However, the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association stepped up to serve as the client for getting the fisheries recertified. 

On Tuesday MSC released a determination and final report that concludes that the fisheries should be re-certified in accordance with the MSC standard. The next step in the process is a 15-day waiting period to see if anybody objects to the determination. MSC issued a notice stressing that this is a determination and not a final certification result. That means that for the time being the fisheries are not yet certified as sustainable by MSC and the MSC label can’t yet be used on products made with salmon from Alaska.

The salmon fisheries in Alaska were originally certified as sustainable by MSC in the year 2000 and the fisheries were recertified in 2007. The certification lapsed last year but the fisheries are well on their way to being recertified by MSC. The final determination report finds that 13 of the 14 units of certification within Alaska meet the MSC standards. However, the assessment team is suggesting that the Prince William Sound unit remain in assessment. That’s pending further analysis of a multi-year study by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game relating to hatchery and wild salmon interactions and evidence relating to hatchery releases of salmon on the productivity of herring in Prince William Sound.

Once Alaska’s commercial salmon fisheries are recertified under the MSC standard salmon caught in those fisheries can once again carry the MSC label. However, only those companies that signed up with the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association could use the label. Companies supporting the effort include Silver Bay Seafood’s and Ekuk Fisheries. Silver Bay Seafood’s is entering the Bristol Bay market next season and Ekuk Fisheries currently operates a small processing facility on the shores of Nushagak Bay.

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