ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaskan Salmon joined Western Australia Rock Lobster as the latest fishery to be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, the London-based nonprofit organization which launched the "Fish Forever" environmental label program last year.
More than 100 major seafood buyers around the world have pledged to purchase from MSC-certified sources. In the United States the list includes operators like Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, corporate parent of Fresh Fields and Bread and Circus Markets; Boston-based restaurant chain Legal Sea Foods; and Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass.
With certification, salmon products from the fishery are now permitted to display the MSC label, a visual reminder directed at consumers who support programs promoting healthier oceans and adequate preservation of seafood stocks. Specifically, the moniker denotes that the fish has not been overharvested or harvested in ways that harm the marine ecosystem, according to officials.
"With [Alaska salmon's] high profile and international market penetration, it is the perfect product to carry our eco-label, telling consumers it is the best environmental choice in seafood," said Brendan May, MSC's chief executive officer.
Under the program, fisheries are required to meet strict, peer-reviewed standards of sustainability, said May. There are three specific standards that must be satisfied: the fishery must be managed in a way that does not deplete the number of fish or kill other species; it must operate in a manner that ensures the health and diversity of the ecosystem; and the fishery must respect international, national and local laws and regulations regarding fishing practices.
Certification is granted when a fishery demonstrates it has met all three principles and has received the approval of a peer-review panel regarding the fishery's management structure, policies and procedures, according to May.
Western Australia's Rock Lobster fishery, certified in March, practiced responsible fisheries management for 40 years when measured against the international standards established by the MSC, said officials of the organization. This lobster product, available around the world, accounts for 20% of the total value of Australia's fisheries.
Founded in 1996 as a joint initiative between the World Wildlife Fund and Unilever, MSC has worked for nearly four years to develop a market-based program to reward fisheries that are fishing responsibly.
The collapse of many fisheries, particularly in third-world countries, has had a devastating effect on the 200 million people whose jobs and income depend on the sea, according to the FAO.
On the homefront, at least 50% of U.S. consumers are concerned about the environment, MSC surveys have shown, and two-thirds of those shoppers say they are willing to pay more for products that are proven environmentally friendly and harvested in a responsible manner.