Talking Shop with… Larry Andrews

The retail marketing director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) explains the new Responsible Fisheries Management certification for wild Alaska salmon.

Grocery Headquarters:  Tell us more about this new certification for salmon.
Larry Andrews:
Alaska salmon is the first of Alaska’s major commercial fisheries to be awarded the independent, third-party Respon­sible Fisheries Management Certification. This certification is based on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (Code) and the FAO Guidelines for Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries (Guidelines). The certification includes all Pacific salmon species caught in Alaska: king, sockeye, coho, keta and pink.

Retailers and consumers can be confident that when they buy Alaska salmon, they are buying from a certified responsible fishery. Alaska’s new certification shows that what Alaska has already been doing for more than 50 years meets the standards of the FAO, the highest and most respected standards in the world. Instead of choosing a certification that has created it’s own set of standards, Alaska has chosen to assess its fisheries directly against the most comprehensive and respected fisheries management guidelines in the world.

Alaska relies on well-managed fisheries to maintain our way of life and bring jobs to our communities. Because, in the end, that’s really what well-managed fisheries do: provide a stable supply of food, sustain communities and those that depend on them.

Will other seafood from Alaska be certified as well?
In addition to Alaska salmon, applications for certification have been submitted for Alaska Pacific Halibut, Alaska Black Cod (Sablefish), Alaska King and Snow Crab and Alaska Pollock. Those assessments are scheduled to take place in phases, beginning this spring and running through 2012.

Why did ASMI decide to pursue this new certification?
Alaska is one of the largest suppliers of wild-caught seafood in the world and has long been regarded as a global model for successful fisheries management. In recent years, the marketplace has called for more documentation and proof regarding responsible fishery management. Our trade partners wanted something they could use in corporate social responsibility programs, to assure their customers they only purchase seafood from responsibly managed and legal fisheries. We also heard from a number of customers looking for a lower cost alternative than what currently exists in the marketplace.

To meet that market demand and provide additional verification and assurance, ASMI retained an independent third-party certifier, Global Trust Ltd., to review and assess Alaska’s wild commercial fisheries directly against the FAO Code and Guidelines in 2010. Global Trust Ltd. was selected because of their extensive experience in certifying other best-practice fisheries around the world.

Basically, this certification gives the marketplace another choice in responsible seafood certification. Choice is always a good thing.

So are you saying that sustainable seafood is becoming mainstream?

The basic premise is that third-party certification is becoming a requirement to enter the market. This is a good thing for fisheries, but it also means there is no premium for responsibly managing your fisheries or adding eco-labels. Instead, consumers depend on retailers to take care of that for them. In the same way consumers trust retailers to provide products that are safe to eat, they trust you to bring them legal seafood from responsibly managed fisheries.

What makes Alaska’s new certification different from others?
Because the certification is being provided through ASMI, a state corporation, it must be open and freely accessible to all who harvest and process Alaska seafood. This includes everyone from individual fishermen up to large-scale processors, and their customers, not just those who pay for use of an eco-label. Plus, there are no logo licensing fees.

How can retailers use this certification?
Retailers can rely on this certification as part of their individual corporate social responsibility programs, as a background assurance to their customers that they are sourcing legal, responsible seafood. If retailers want to make a certification claim on product, they can do this by simply providing chain of custody verification.

Ultimately, this will make it easier and more cost-effective for retailers to source responsibly managed salmon from Alaska. And as more of Alaska’s major fisheries are certified, this provides even more choices for retailers.

For more information about ASMI’s certification, visit sustainability.alaskaseafood.org/certification.

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