Alaskans To Walmart: "Stop Swimming Against The Tide On Alaska Salmon"

Protestors at Anchorage Walmart demand reversal of discriminatory sustainability policy; Say nation's largest grocery retailer unfairly denying millions of Americans access to sustainable Alaskan seafood

Sep 04, 2013, 14:07 ET from Alaska Salmon Now!

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Sept. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In a massive show of support, scores of hard-working fishing families from across Alaska, along with consumers and other representatives from across Alaska's seafood industry, converged on Walmart's South Anchorage location today to express their discontent over the corporation's controversial sustainability policy that has left millions of Americans without access to the world's gold standard of sustainable seafood, Alaska salmon, and has instead forced foreign salmon from Russia and elsewhere onto their plates.

The protest comes one day before senior Alaska government officials meet with Walmart sustainability executives to explain how Alaska's fisheries have adhered to the highest national and international standards for responsible management for over 50 years.

"We are here today to tell Walmart that they are swimming against the tide when it comes to Alaska salmon," said John Renner, Vice President, Cordova District Fishermen United. "Walmart needs to do what is right and recognize that consumers deserve the right to choose sustainable American seafood. We will continue until Walmart acknowledges what the rest of the world has acknowledged - that the gold standard for sustainability is here in Alaska."

The protest took place amid an ongoing battle between Alaska's seafood industry, the leading provider of wild caught seafood in the United States which contributes an estimated $16 billion annually to the national economy, and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a London-based non-profit that has forged a close relationship with the corporate giant. Alaska is the only state with a sustainable mandate in its constitution, and its seafood industry has historically been renowned for its commitment to the highest environmental standards.

Walmart, the largest grocery supplier in the U.S., shocked many earlier this year when it announced its policy to only sell salmon products with sustainable certification labeling from the MSC, an organization that receives much of its funding from Walmart and its affiliated foundations. Critics have decried the MSC as an organization engaged in profit-driven and monopolistic practices.

"The irony is that when the MSC began back in 2000, it needed a fishery to showcase true sustainability, and the first place it turned to was Alaska because of our exemplary track record in fisheries management," said Greg Gabriel, Executive Director of the Northwest Alaska Seiners Association. "Over the years, however, it has become clear that MSC has diluted and watered down its standards and enforcement in other parts of the world while increasing the costs to its participating fisheries. Alaska fisheries, meanwhile, have been sustainable long before MSC, and will continue to be sustainable long after. Walmart should be proud to provide sustainable Alaska salmon to Americans."

After voicing concerns over MSC's questionable certification and business practices, Alaska's seafood industry voluntarily opted out of MSC's high-priced eco-endorsements in favor of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-based Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification. Now, MSC has convinced Walmart to deprive consumers of high quality, American products in favor of foreign-sourced salmon.

"American consumers should be outraged at this type of behavior and policy," said Jack Hopkins, a native Prince William Sound Fisherman. "If Walmart really believes in its Buy American and Sustainability practices, why is it letting a European organization prevent Americans from supporting American jobs and choosing the most sustainably caught seafood in the world?"

Worldwide, Alaska has consistently been recognized for its sustainable management success. Since its inception, MSC had consistently recognized the excellence and effectiveness of Alaska's fisheries management system, ranking it above programs in British Columbia and Russia. The EDF Seafood Selector named Alaskan salmon "Eco-Friendly and Ocean Best". The National Marine Fisheries Service's most recent annual report to Congress on the status of U.S. fish stocks indicates the overwhelming majority of stocks are healthy, however only a handful are MSC certified.  And the Pew Charitable Trust and Ocean Conservancy stated in a recent report that "success in managing and rebuilding America's fisheries ranks among the leading achievements of marine resource management in the world." 

"This is not just an environmental issue, this is an American issue," added Renner. "For over fifty years, Alaska has been recognized around the world as the gold-standard for responsibly managed fisheries.  It is required in our state law, we are overseen and reviewed by both state and federal agencies, and we are certified by a thorough third-party certification process that follows UN FAO criteria. The real question is, why wouldn't Walmart carry the best, most sustainable salmon from right here in Alaska?"

For Media Inquiries, please contact John Renner at 1-907-632-2536

"Alaska Salmon Now!" is a diverse grassroots organization comprised of American consumers, hardworking fishing families from across Alaska, and other interested parties who are demanding Walmart reverse its controversial sustainability policy that has left millions of Americans without access to the world's gold standard of sustainable seafood, Alaska salmon, and instead is forcing foreign salmon from Russia and elsewhere onto our plates.

SOURCE Alaska Salmon Now!