Senator Lisa Murkowski today introduced legislation to combat the influence of outside certification parties on Alaska's sustainable seafood industry. Her Responsible Seafood Certification and Labeling Act would prohibit any federal agencies from using third party non-governmental certification schemes when considering or labeling any domestic catch as "sustainable.'
Recently, Senator Murkowski was able to encourage the National Park Service to reverse course when its guidelines referenced the London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in defining whether wild Alaska salmon is sustainable. MSC's certification, recently referred to as a "high-priced eco-endorsement" in the Alaska press, no longer judges the quality of wild Alaska salmon after the industry discontinued their contractual agreement with them. Murkowski also asked the Department of Health and Human Service and General Service Administration to review this flawed policy.
"It is bad federal policy to allow 3rd party certifiers, including foreign Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), to decide what seafood is allowed to be sold in National Parks, or procured by federal agencies," said Murkowski. "Not too long ago, wild Alaska salmon served as the flagship species for MSC. Now MSC is disparaging the "sustainability" of Alaska salmon. MSC and NGOs like them have political agendas, lack transparency, and use their certification schemes to inappropriately influence federal and state fisheries management."
Murkowski's other efforts on this issue include questioning the policy in a Senate hearing, meetings with federal officials and letters of inquiry, calling attention to the economic threat posed by adding a new outside variable to the fishing industry despite such policies being directly inconsistent with federal guidelines that state "the government does not endorse any particular labeling or documentation system or program over another."
The Responsible Seafood Certification and Labeling Act would prohibit any US federal agency from requiring or endorsing the use of any third party non-governmental organization's label, criteria or other scheme to certify fish or seafood as sustainable. This prohibition will apply to any federal agency's purchase of fish or seafood, the sale of fish or seafood by a vendor or lessee on federal land or property, and any reference to a seafood sustainability standard developed by a third party non-governmental organization in any regulation, policy or guideline.
"This is the right federal policy for the Alaska seafood industry, and for our nation's fishermen and coastal communities that depend on healthy and sustainable fisheries," added Murkowski. "It also is the right policy to ensure that hard working fishermen and the coastal communities that depend on them are not disadvantaged by the agenda of several misguided NGOs.