Labeling Dilemma for Alaskan salmon
Why pay for a service that might not have real value? That is the question that Alaskan salmon fisheries are facing now that . Alaskan salmon fishermen have been given two choices: find another entity to cover the costs, now that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) will no longer pay, or go without the label.
ADFG is not out of the picture completely. It is willing to be involved in the certifying, but only if the salmon industry in its state is treated as one fishery, as opposed to several, and if someone else will cover the actual cost. However, Alaska’s sustainable fisheries have good reason not to want to incur the costs of the MSC label. Annual sustainability audits run $75,000, and recertification every five years is approximately $150,000, according to the Alaska Journal of Commerce. It seems ludicrous that Alaskan salmon fisheries might lose the MSC “sustainability” label purely for financial reasons.
Are Alaskan salmon fishermen terribly concerned by all this? Probably not that much. MSC has certified a number of fisheries with questionable sustainability , such as New Zealand Hoki and South Georgian Toothfish. This reduces the value of the MSC label and is confusing to consumers: what does an MSC label actually mean if questionable fisheries can simply pay to get one, while a well-managed fishery like Alaskan salmon can go unlabeled because they aren’t willing or able to pay?
While Alaskan salmon’s future with an MSC label is up in the air, MSC is making a very strong effort to persuade Alaskan salmon fishermen to continue using their label. Specifically, they have been sending out form letters for buyers to use when corresponding with salmon suppliers, in which buyers urge suppliers to continue paying for MSC certification or risk losing their clientele.
Other fisheries are still buying into the MSC game, with swordfish and Pacific Northwest tuna both fighting hard to receive a label with questionable meaning. We encourage them to spend their money elsewhere, perhaps to fund and implement truly sustainable practices, rather than paying for a label with little substance supporting it.
In the meantime, consumers should avoid shopping only according to labels. Be sure to check out our and stay informed by asking questions as to where your seafood is coming from.
- Sofía Baliño