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Wal-Mart Executives To Meet With the Governor on Wednesday About Stocking Salmon Products

Top executives with Wal-Mart will be in Alaska on Wednesday to discuss how to get Alaska salmon on store shelves. The issue that has prompted the visit by the Wal-Mart executives is a decision by the company to only stock seafood products labeled as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Most of Alaska’s commercially caught salmon are eligible to carry the MSC label but most of the major seafood processors have withdrawn their support from MSC and put that support behind the “Responsible Fisheries Management” program. That program is supported by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which is the seafood marketing arm of the State of Alaska. That means that a very small percentage of Alaska’s salmon is eligible to carry the MSC label and thus products made with Alaska salmon may be missing from Wal-Mart stores. Last week Alaska Governor Sean Parnell sent a letter to Doug McMillon, the new President and CEO of Wal-Mart, thanking him for sending a delegation to meet with stakeholders in Alaska and for starting a process to reevaluate if the RFM program meets Wal-Mart’s sustainability criteria. This week’s meeting with the Wal-Mart executives is scheduled to include the Governor, his special assistant for fisheries, the ASMI Executive Director, and the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. This week’s meeting comes on the heels of a letter sent to Wal-Mart last month by several non-governmental organizations asking Wal-Mart to only use sustainability certifications that use an expert process that is separate from existing fisheries management systems. The NGO’s include the World Wildlife Fund, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Fishwise, the New England Aquarium, and the Wild Salmon Center. In the letter to Wal-Mart, the NGO’s claim that due to rampant misinformation about various sustainability programs, it will be incredibly difficult for non-experts in sustainability programs and fisheries science to meaningfully analyze seafood program against the principles outlined by the Sustainability Consortium, which is the entity Wal-Mart is using to review the ASMI “Responsible Fisheries Management Program”. This week’s meeting between the Wal-Mart executives and the Governor will be held Wednesday in Juneau.