On the heels of a meeting between the State of Alaska and Wal-Mart over the chain's policy of only selling seafood that is certified as "sustainable" by the Marine Stewardship Council, Alaskan Congressman Don Young questioned fishery industry officials and scientists at a Natural Resources Committee hearing about the detrimental effects this certification process has on some domestic fisheries, including Alaskan salmon.
In 2012, Alaska salmon processors dropped the Marine Stewardship Council's label after frustration with costs and shifting standards, instead creating their own certification program based on international standards.
During a House Natural Resources hearing on the reauthorization of the Magnuson--Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Congressman Young questioned Rod Moore, Executive Director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association about how the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process works and the costs associated with it.
Moore explained that to be able to sell Alaskan salmon in places like Wal-Mart or export salmon to foreign countries in Europe, processors must be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which Moore said amounted to "economic blackmail."
Dr. Hilborn, Professor of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington also testified at the hearing, agreeing with Congressman Young that Alaskan salmon are indeed sustainable, and that the sustainability battle by the Alaska salmon industry has become political and not based on science.
"MSC has more or less established a monopoly in the European markets as Rod said, and in fact through some NGOs in the U.S, and the Alaska salmon industry is basically trying to break that monopoly by getting other certification schemes accepted at the same standard at the MSC. It's really a political battle, it's not a scientific or sustainability battle," said Hilborn.
Rep. Young suggested that as Congress continues the reauthorization process of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, we must examine the issue of sustainability certifications and establish a uniform definition of "sustainable," based on science.