From Alaska's Dutch Harbor to Holland's fish markets, sustainability is the buzz in seafood businesses
by Craig Weatherby
Earlier this month, Holland’s supermarkets commited that within four years—that is, by 2011—the wild seafood they sell will come solely from fisheries certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
More than 4,500 stores in the Netherlands are committed to this step, including well-known chains such as Albert Heijn, C1000 and Super de Boer.
MSC is the UK-based group that certifies our North Pacific Albacore and Alaskan Salmon, Sablefish, and Halibut as stemming from sustainably fisheries (The rest of our seafood—King Crab, Spot Prawns, and Weathervane Scallops—is certified sustainable by the State of Alaska).
As with a similar pledge by retail behemoth Wal-Mart, we can only hope that the Dutch retailers keep their promise. If so, this ambitious pledge should resonate well beyond the tiny but well-respected country’s borders.
Seafood consumption is rising fast in Europe thanks to increased consciousness of the health value of omega-3s and the rising value of the euro.
According to Rupert Howes, MSC’s chief executive, “This is an incredible, ambitious and groundbreaking initiative. I have no doubt that this bold move will deliver real and lasting change in the marine environment and will contribute to ensuring the sustainability of seafood supplies for this and future generations.”
Kees Lankester, a member of the MSC Board of Trustees, added: “This nationwide colossal step by the Dutch retail chains sends a strong signal to the global fisheries sector that products from recognised responsible fisheries will increasingly have preferred market access.”
International acceptance of the sustainable-seafood movement is growing, and retail seafood-sourcing policies based on sustainability are progressing.
Sustainability pioneer certifies Vital Choice Alaskan Fish
The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organization that was set up in 1997 to promote solutions to the problem of overfishing.
The MSC runs the only widely recognized environmental certification and eco-labeling program for wild-harvest fisheries. It is the only seafood eco-label that is consistent with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards and UN FAO guidelines for fisheries certification.
The United Nation's "Guidelines for the Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries", require that credible fishery certification and eco-labeling schemes include:
- Objective, third-party fishery assessment utilizing scientific evidence
- Transparent processes with built-in stakeholder consultation and objection procedures
- Standards based on the sustainability of target species, ecosystems and management practices
Using chain-of-custody audits, the MSC certifies that Vital Choice Alaskan Salmon, Halibut, and Sablefish come from approved, sustainable fisheries.
- MSC (Marine Stewardship Council). Retail revolution: 100% sustainable MSC-labelled fish in the Netherlands. Accessed online December 26, 2007 at http://www.msc.org/html/ni_335.htm.