August 19, 2013
Begich Calls on Federal Contractor to Serve Alaska Seafood to Troops
Disputes Outsider Certification of Alaska Fish
U.S. Senator Mark Begich sent a letter to a major international food contractor today urging them to reconsider the decision to serve only Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified seafood to federal agencies like the Department of Defense. In his letter to Sodexo, USA President and CEO George Chavel, Begich took issue with reliance on sustainability certification from MSC, an organization that has come under harsh criticism by Alaska fishermen for their growing logo fees, inconsistent standards and increasing licensing costs.
“It’s ridiculous and insulting that the seafood being offered to our troops might come from Russia,” said Begich. “Alaska wrote the book on sustainable fisheries and we don’t need outsiders to tell us how to manage our stocks.”
This is the second letter Begich has written in recent months challenging a corporate decision to rely solely upon the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainability certification. In a June 28letter to Michael Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart, Begich questioned the necessity of the MSC label for Alaska fisheries and reminded Duke that Alaska has been a world leader in sustainable fisheries management for decades—long before MSC was even founded. Letters from other elected officials, including Governor Sean Parnell, soon followed. Wal-Mart responded on August 9 with an invitation to meet with Begich and members of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Industry in September to discuss this issue.
“Alaska seafood is the best in the world and we shouldn’t let some global organization tell us what to serve our troops,” said Begich. “I’m calling upon Sodexo to review their contract and tell me what changes they will make to ensure our military has access to healthy, Alaska seafood.”
The MSC, an organization that certifies seafood as sustainable, was established in 1997 and grew in influence with the help of Alaska’s salmon, halibut and pollock fisheries. But because of frustrations with the MSC’s ever-changing standards, Alaska last year initiated a sustainability certification program based on the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and eco-labeling guidelines and independently certified by Global Trust. It is accredited by the International Organization for Standardization which is used by fisheries in Iceland and Canada.