Some days ago, on June 19, a senior seafood buyer for retail giant Walmart sent salmon suppliers this letter.
"Please review the attached letter in regards to wild salmon. This is a reconfirmation of our requirements for sustainable sourcing of wild salmon," said an email introducing the letter. "Now that the wild salmon harvest season is upon us, please review your source fisheries to ensure that they meet our sustainability requirements."
The letter said the company will buy only from fisheries "certified sustainable to the MSC standard," or actively working toward certification.
The bulk of Alaska's salmon industry, you'll recall, recently fired MSC — the London-based Marine Stewardship Council — as tedious, expensive and superfluous.
Walmart said it might consider an alternative to MSC certification. But, according to its letter, "Walmart has not yet determined any other standard to be equivalent to MSC. Therefore, no other standards will be accepted as equivalent until such time as we announce our decision."
Deckboss hasn't talked with the MSC folks, but imagines they're delighted with Walmart's stance.
I've also not talked with Alaska's major salmon processors. But I'm guessing they're not too worried.
Because the processors are confident most buyers trust that Alaska has a good and very abundant wild product, and that the state manages its salmon runs sustainably.
Further, I expect the processors believe the Alaska brand trumps the MSC brand.
Deckboss did ask Tyson Fick, spokesman for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, for a comment. Remember, Alaska's major salmon processors control the ASMI board.
"It is amazing to me," he said, "that America's largest retailer appears to be saying that they will not buy American seafood without the endorsement of a foreign-based environmental group while promoting foreign seafood with clearly inferior fisheries management and quality, all in the name of sustainability."
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