Alaska/Pacific Coast

Changes coming for salmon bycatch, GOA sablefish fishery
NPFMC actions are latest effort to trim incidental harvest of salmon in groundfish fisheries and combat whale predation of sablefish in the Gulf of Alaska
Cordova Times by Margaret Bauman – April 17, 2015
Big changes are in the works to stem the tide of salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery and the growing competition for sablefish in the Gulf of Alaska between commercial harvesters and whales.
http://www.thecordovatimes.com/article/1516changes-coming-for-salmon-bycatch-goa

Pacific Council Recommends Longer Commercial Season for California Chinook But Drought Effects Loom
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Marin Independent Journal] By Aaron Kinney – April 17, 2015
PRINCETON-BY-THE-SEA, Reflecting optimism about this year’s abundance of chinook salmon, fishing industry regulators on Wednesday approved the longest commercial season in more than a decade. But the state’s record drought has darkened the long-term outlook for one of California’s most valuable fish.

The San Francisco region’s 2015 season will total 138 days between May 1 and Sept. 30, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council decided near the end of a weeklong conference in Rohnert Park. The council also voted to allow 11 days of fishing off Point Reyes National Seashore in October, when the fall-run chinook pass under the Golden Gate Bridge to spawn in the Sacramento River system.

“I am feeling pretty good about this year,” said Pillar Point fisherman Don Marshall, who represents a group of roughly 75 small boat operators throughout California. “I think there are some fish around.”

But as California’s historic drought enters its fourth year, chinook salmon are under duress. Dry winters take a big toll on the fish, also known as king salmon, which need plenty of cold water to make their way out to sea as juveniles and return to lay eggs as adults.

The salmon have for many years had to compete with Central Valley agriculture for water. It’s a David vs. Goliath battle. California chinook salmon fishermen unloaded their catch for nearly $23 million in 2013. Central Valley farmers generate billions of dollars in sales every year.

But the fight for water will only get fiercer as the drought persists. Jon Rosenfield, conservation biologist for the Bay Institute, said winter- and spring-run chinook — smaller salmon populations that are protected under endangered species laws — will likely die off in coming years unless state and federal water managers allocate more water to the Sacramento River and its tributaries.

Meanwhile, the fall-run chinook’s numbers could plummet to the point that commercial fishermen are barred from catching them, Rosenfield said.

State and federal hatchery programs have enabled the fall spawning season to persist. Fishermen and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have bolstered those initiatives in recent years with a variety of new projects to truck or float juvenile salmon from inland hatcheries to the bay and ocean. Transporting the smolts protects them from almost certain death in the increasingly tepid and shallow Sacramento channel.

Marshall said the survival of the fall-run chinook, and the industry the fish supports, will depend on the willingness of the state and other stakeholders to devote more funding to these extraordinary measures.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/SearchStory/Salmon/972189

 

International

Alaska At-Sea Processors say MSC is at ‘Reputational Risk’ After Tragic Sinking of Dainiy Vostok
SEAFOODNEWS.COM  by John Sackton – April 19, 2015
The At-sea Processors Association, representing the MSC certified Alaska pollock producers, has written the MSC and Intertek Fisheries Certifications to answer for the facts that have come to light in the tragic sinking of the Dalniy Vostok with the loss of 69 lives.

The vessel was operated by one of the holders of the MSC Certificate for Russian Pollock, Magellan Co.,  Ltd.

In a letter dated April 17th, Stephanie Madsen, Executive Director, says that Russian reporting on the tragedy and the statements of surviving crew members show that there was immense disregard for independent verification of statements made by Russian management authorities, which were used by Intertek to award MSC certification to the fishery.

“APA and other stakeholders repeatedly expressed concerns throughout the process of certifying the Russian SOO (Sea of Okhtosk) pollock fishery that reliance on Russian government assurances about common practices aboard Russian vessels without adequate independent verification could result in a non‐credible certification determination by Intertek Fisheries Certification Ltd.

In the case of the Dalniy Vostok, 40% of the personnel on board were foreign nationals working illegally on the Russian trawler.  Many were from Myanamar, and were not legally licensed to work on fishing vessels.  The APA believes that this practice is likely common in the Russian fishery.

“Articles in the Myanmar Times include allegations that at least some of the foreign nationals were unaware they were being hired to work aboard a fishing vessel. Even more troubling, these articles also report that critical information on the vessel’s condition was intentionally withheld from the foreign workers and that they were denied access to life-saving equipment. These articles also reference corruption within the Russian fishery management authority and illegal actions by this fishery participant that contributed to both the vessel’s sinking and avoidable loss of life.”

“We sincerely hope the Russian government will conduct a thorough investigation of alleged labor abuses and illegal activities and take appropriate steps to protect basic human rights and implement basic fishing vessel safety reforms. But IFC and MSC have a duty here, as well. To the extent that claims of adequate fisheries monitoring and enforcement were provided in the original SOO pollock assessment, such claims rested on the credibility of the Russian fishery management authority. The investigation into this tragic event, particularly given international media interest, could well expose in further detail other poor fishing practices and inadequate fishery management and enforcement. IFC and MSC should demand a full accounting from the Russian authorities on how such gross violations could go undetected by the Russian government and seek independent verification where concerns still exist.”

In short, the Alaskan Producers are saying that legitimate Russian operators, the Supply Chain which buys these products, other MSC certified fisheries, and the MSC itself, all are at reputational risk unless steps are taken to independently verify policies and enforcement by the managers of the Russian pollock fishery.

“The sinking of the Dalniy Vostok is first and foremost a terrible and avoidable human tragedy. It also highlights the reputational risks for everyone -­‐ the IFC, the MSC…, the supply chain members that sell products from the SOO, the other fisheries that are MSC certified and those Russian fishing companies that abide by the law – when there is not independent verification of attestations of policies and enforcement made by fishery managers when there are serious, legitimate concerns about their veracity.”

Labor standards are not part of the MSC principles, but other groups in the UK have adopted strong principals against illegal labor on board fishing vessels, and the problem has created an uproar in Thailand.  As with illegal labor and seafood fraud, where there is one type of non-sanctioned activity in a fishery, frequently there are others as yet undetected.  If operators are willing to ignore some laws, why wouldn’t they ignore the promises made in achieving certification?

The APA says the answer to this is credible third party verification, which they feel is lacking in the MSC certification of the Russian fishery, as the investigation into the tragic loss of life in the sinking of the Dalniy Vostok is likely to reveal a range of unsanctioned behavior.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/972365/Alaska-At-Sea-Processors-say-MSC-is-at-Reputational-Risk-After-Tragic-Sinking-of-Dainiy-Vostok

 

Environment/Science

Threatened Fish by Country: US Leads the World
Arbiter New by Arbiter Environmental Writers – April 15, 2015

front2

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2015—The world’s oceans and other bodies of water continue to face several pressures. As a result, an increasing number of fish species are being driven to extinction by unsustainable fishing practices, pollution, marine debris, spread of disease and loss of habitat.
http://www.arbiternews.com/2015/04/15/threatened-fish-by-country-us-leads-the-world/

Research identifies factors affecting salmon spawning
UAF News by Sharice Walker – April 16, 2015
Warmer water and smaller run sizes can increase the rates at which salmon spawn away from their home streams, according to a study led by a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher.
http://news.uaf.edu/salmonspawn/

FYI’s

Along Alaska’s Naknek River, belugas and spring go hand in hand
Alaska Dispatch News by Megan Edge – April 18, 2015
For residents living along the banks of the Naknek River in Southwest Alaska, the annual arrival of beluga whales chasing rainbow smelt upriver marks the transition from winter to spring. And for some, it also represents an opportunity to put food on their family’s table.
https://www.adn.com/article/20150418/along-alaskas-naknek-river-belugas-and-spring-go-hand-hand

Opinion

Editors’s View: What’s Changed Between Alaska and the MSC: A Whole World
SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [The Editor’s View] by John Sackton  – April 16, 2015

We were struck by the childish tone of one of the critics of Alaska’s major salmon producers returning to the MSC, after they had refused to participate in the client group for two years.

Our colleague John Fiorello at Intrafish can’t seem to get past Kindergarten.  He writes a ‘knock knock’ column about Alaska as if describing a playground fight.
It’s unfortunate because the world of certification and the branding of Alaska salmon  has changed substantially since 2012, when Alaska Salmon Producers left the MSC.  It’s clear Fiorello has no understanding of these changes.
Let’s look at what has changed, and a little of the history.
In 2012, Alaska salmon producers withdrew from the MSC because they felt alignment with the MSC had become destructive to the Alaska Salmon Brand.  Yet the MSC had started based on Alaska fisheries as its model.
Alaska Salmon, New Zealand Hoki, and Australian Rock lobster were the first three major commercial fisheries ever certified by the MSC, beginning in the year 2000.
Five years later, as the MSC began to tout its commercial labeling successes, they had 195 SKU’s on sale with the MSC logo, of which the vast majority were based on Alaska salmon.
When Alaska pollock was certified in 2005, it vastly expanded the number or MSC labeled products in Europe.  By 2010, the MSC reported 10,000 SKU’s globally using the MSC logo, again the vast majority being Alaska pollock or Alaska Salmon.
As the MSC began to transition from being funded by foundations to being funded through its licensing program, it is fair to say that without Alaskan products, the MSC could never have gotten off the ground.
The MSC message of verified and credible sustainability matched Alaska’s best in the world record of fishery management.  It was a win-win situation for customers in Europe where retailers could embrace the MSC, precisely because they heavily relied on Alaskan products.
But as the MSC transitioned to focusing on its own brand – the blue MSC logo – the danger of a possible monopoly became apparent.  The MSC was far and away the most recognized eco-label, yet it also was actively engaged in promoting the ‘MSC brand’, as being the key element retail buyers should require.  Could Alaska Salmon producers and ASMI lose control of their own brand, which they spent millions of dollars to support?
At this point, the Alaskan producers were concerned that the mission of the MSC could drift from certifying and endorsing sustainable practices based on sound science to requirements on producers that would protect the MSC brand from attacks by other NGO’s.
If the MSC was the only recognized third party certification scheme, then other considerations could easily be added on to the certification that had nothing to do with Alaska’s record on sustainability.
Two examples were governance standards and labor abuse.  The success of the Alaska fisheries model was not affected by either problem – yet the MSC was moving to make acceptance of certification subject to its board’s views on both matters.
Iceland faced the same problem as Alaska, in that the certification schemes were potentially at odds with the success of the Icelandic brand.
Both Iceland and Alaska supported the development of a certification scheme – responsible fisheries management, or RFM, that was based on FAO guidelines the same as the MSC, but which had different interpretations of governance – i.e. using ISO formal rules against conflict of interest, rather then the NGO preferred ISEAL rules.
Secondly the RFM standard adhered to the FAO documents and did not attempt to add additional criteria for sustainability than what had originally been accepted by all FAO member countries.
Once the RFM program was in place, with ASMI owning the program in Alaska, all the Alaskan fisheries that were certified by the MSC also were reviewed by auditors and certified to the RFM standard.
In 2012, the RFM standard was relatively new and had not gained widespread market acceptance.  Instead, many retailers, such as Walmart, and even some Foodservice giants like Sodexo and Sysco, used MSC certification as a criteria for their buyers.
As a result, when Alaska salmon producers said they would withdraw from the MSC program for the 2013 season, a Walmart buyer, supported by SFP (Sustainable Fisheries Partnership) wrote a letter stating the company would no longer buy Alaska salmon not certified by the MSC.
This created a firestorm.  Walmart quickly determined that it had to do an independent evaluation of the RFM program, which took about a year.  At the end of that time, Walmart revised its buying guidelines to accept all seafood sustainability programs that met The Sustainability Consortium Principles.  Since both the RFM program and the MSC met these principles, Walmart instructed its buyers to purchase products that carried MSC or equivalent Certifications.
The same process occurred at Sodexo, The US National Park Service, and at many other retailers, who have responded to the RFM program by changing their sustainability pledges to reflect “equivalent” standards.  In fact, at the upcoming Global Seafood Expo in Brussels, another major European retailer will be making an announcement accepting the RFM certifications.
At the same time, European retailers, including those in Germany, felt they had to address the global problem of the proliferation of ecolabels, and the problem of market monopoly by a single ecolabel.
Germany is a huge supporter of the MSC program, and the most important market for the MSC.  Yet German government entities could not specify MSC certified products because MSC remained a private standard with no international recognition.
As a result, the Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative was launched with support from the German development agency and the FAO.  GSSI’s goal was to create a benchmark based on FAO sustainability guidelines and FAO documents on ecolabels.  If an acceptable benchmark process was developed, all standards that met that benchmark would be deemed equivalent, and Germany or any other government or international purchasing agency bound  to use open standards, could then require what they bought to meet the GSSI benchmark.
The development of GSSI represented a strategic threat to the MSC, according to a statement by Rupert Howes, but the MSC decided to fully participate.  In the discussions, the argument was whether the GSSI would use a simple pass/fail benchmark or would use relative scores, so that one scheme may be assessed with a total passing score of 90, and another scheme with a total passing score of 81.
This is similar to how the MSC assesses fisheries.  Some of the scoring was related to governance, and language was proposed that would disqualify national certifications such as Viet GAP from ever being acceptable under the GSSI benchmark.
Yet the FAO had intended from the very beginning that its sustainability guidance could be applied on a national level, and that ecolabels should not create trade barriers.
The GSSI board resolved this issue in favor of the FAO, clearly stating in the second round of testing for its benchmark that only a pass / fail score would be used to determine which certifications met the benchmark.  Other features would be called indicators, and in some areas schemes would have indicator scores, but not in others, and not on governance.
These two developments, the decisions of retailers to accept RFM certifications and other certifications as equivalent to the MSC, and the development of an open GSSI standard which major retailers in Europe have agreed to use, have broken the threat of an MSC monopoly over seafood sustainability certifications.
Both Alaska and Iceland now no longer face selling seafood in a world where there is only a single sustainability standard acceptable to the market.  The market has changed.
So the biggest and most significant difference between 2012 and 2015 for Alaska producers is that the danger of an international monopoly on sustainability certifications has been broken.
The second factor is that now the Alaska Brand can compete on a level playing field.
For some customers, getting Alaska salmon with MSC certification is important.  For other customers, getting Alaska salmon is important because its sustainability practices and management and quality is superior to MSC certified salmon from Russia.
Without breaking the monopoly, it was far more difficult for Alaska salmon to highlight the sustainability differences between their products and Russian products, because some retailers in Europe are committed only to MSC.  Now they can compete across the board.
Even with the withdrawal of the Salmon producers from the MSC for two years, the same companies maintained many products in both MSC and RFM certifications including pollock, cod, and flatfish.
Salmon is an iconic fish for Alaska and a world class symbol of the sustainability of wild fish.  Now that the fight to sell product is back on the level playing field of reliability, quality, management, history and reputation, it makes perfect sense for Alaskan producers to sell to everyone they can in the current market environment.  This is why 80% of the Alaska industry will rejoin the MSC client group, so they can offer the MSC choice to their customers.
Reading Fiorello’s column,  there will be those who still believe in a world where MSC is a monopoly, and support that.  In fact, Intrafish is rarely critical of NGO’s in general, and takes most of their charges against individual companies at face value. So it is no surprise here that they were stuck in the past.

I am just grateful that the seafood industry producers and retail buyers, as well as the sustainability movement has moved on to a more robust infrastructure for, and understanding of,  global certifications and ecolabels.
http://www.seafoodnews.com/Story/972052/Editorss-View-Whats-Changed-Between-Alaska-and-the-MSC-A-Whole-World

Ann Owens
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Office Manager
1900 W Emerson Place Suite 205, Seattle, WA 98119
Phone: 206.281.1667
E-mail: pspafish@gmail.com; Website: www.pspafish.net
Our office days/hours are Monday-Friday
8:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. *Inclusion of a news article, report, or other document in this email does not imply PSPA support or endorsement of the information or opinion expressed in the document.

April 20, 2015