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Increased Demand for Certified Seafood

LONDON - Demand is up for screened seafood, writes Amy Westervelt, and the US market for sustainable seafood is heating up.

More seafood companies are seeking MSC certification due to US market opportunities

The trend is prompting more fisheries and seafood companies to seek Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in the absence of US organic certification for seafood.

During September 2007 alone, the council certified its first tuna fishery (Albacore Fishing Association (AAFA), a more than 3,000 ton–operation based in San Diego), Chicken of the Sea’s wild-caught salmon and a consortium of fisheries in Alaska. MSC also recently appointed new independent certifiers to assess a greater variety of species under their standard, including Alaskan species such as black cod, Alaskan cod, flounder and sole. A giant joint Canadian/US Pacific hake fishery is being assessed for certification; if certified it will be the second-largest MSC-certified fishery in the world.

“We are interested in pursuing MSC certification because some major retail chains such as Wal-Mart are asking to fulfill their seafood needs from MSC-certified products where possible,” Jan Jacobs, president of the Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative, told Sustainable Food News in May 2007 [see “Wal-Mart hooks certified fish,” SI, March 2006].

The global retail value of seafood bearing the MSC eco-label in 2006 was over $500 million, a 116 percent increase over the previous year, according to the London-based certifier’s annual report, released in October. MSC now certifies nearly 1,000 seafood products on store shelves in 35 countries, a 76 percent increase from its 2005 numbers.

Despite the increase, many agree with Blue Horizon Seafood cofounder John Battendieri, who says there is still a need for organic seafood standards, particularly aquaculture, which is not covered by MSC. “It’s inevitable that they will be finalized,” he says. “We just don’t know when.”

Source: Sustainable Industries