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Alaska Salmon Fishery Re-Enters Assessment for Third Certification

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US - The Marine Stewardship Council has announced that the Alaska salmon fishery has formally re-entered assessment.

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The MSC received notice of a signed contract between the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association (PSVOA) and Intertek Moody Marine (IMM), the certification body that will conduct an independent, third-party assessment of the entire Alaska salmon fishery against the MSC standard. The Alaska salmon fishery is seeking its third, five-year MSC certification and, if successful, Alaska salmon products from the client group coordinated through PSVOA would be eligible to continue to use the MSC ecolabel.

The same geographical units, species and gear types of Alaska salmon are included in the assessment scope. (The Annette Island tribally managed salmon fishery in Southeast Alaska obtained MSC certification in a separate assessment process.) PSVOA has indicated it intends to make participation in the client group and certificate open to all interested companies and has said it will be sending out letters before the end of this month with certificate sharing information.

The commercial Alaska salmon season predominantly runs May through August. All salmon harvested in the 2012 season will be covered under the current certificate, which is valid until the 29 October of this year. IMM and the PSVOA have confirmed that the objective is to complete the reassessment process prior to the start of the next harvest season in 2013.

The Alaska salmon fishery operates within US territorial waters adjacent to the coast of the State of Alaska and in rivers that terminate in Alaska. The fishery includes Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Chum (O. keta), Coho (O. kisutch), Pink (O. gorbuscha) and Sockeye (O. nerka) salmon and is managed in 15 geographical management units by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the US-Canada Pacific Salmon Commission, under the US Canadian Pacific Salmon Treaty.

Salmon are harvested by purse seine, drift and set gillnet, and by trolling and fish wheel; the latter operates like a water-powered mill wheel and includes baskets to catch fish. The annual total catch of Alaska salmon was approximately 361,000 metric tonnes in 2011; Pink accounted for about half of the harvest, followed by Sockeye, Chum, Coho, and Chinook.

Alaska salmon products carrying the MSC ecolabel are sold in 21 countries today. The majority of fresh and frozen products sold are to Asia, primarily China and Japan, while the remaining canned product is sold primarily in European countries and the US.

Bob Kehoe, Executive Director of the PSVOA, said: MSC certification of the Alaska salmon fishery has been a benefit to Alaska fishermen by helping to provide stable markets and prices to fishermen, said Mr Kehoe. By restarting the assessment now, our intent is to avoid any potential interruption in the availability of the MSC ecolabel for Alaska salmon.

Kerry Coughlin, Regional Director, Americas, said: Since the Alaska salmon fishery first entered the MSC programme in 2000, the robust and independent, third-party assessment process has helped the fishery confirm to buyers around the world that it has been a long-standing model of sustainable fishery management. With increasing recognition of the credibility and value of the MSC Standard and trust mark throughout global seafood markets, buyers committed to sustainable seafood appreciate the ability to feature the MSC ecolabel, and they will be pleased that the assessment of Alaska salmon has resumed. We appreciate the client coordination role that PSVOA has taken on and their effort to be inclusive and to complete assessment in a timely way.