Alaska processors reach agreement on MSC client group

Jul 21, 2015

More Alaska salmon processors should have access to markets that prefer the MSC's trademark blue label.

DILLINGHAM: The Alaska salmon processors seeking the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue sustainability logo, which is needed to sell salmon in certain European markets, may finally have access next summer under an agreement between two groups of processors. KDLG's Molly Dischner has more:

Audio Transcript posted below:

The Pacific Seafood Processors Association, or PSPA, is expected to take over the MSC label from the Alaska Salmon Processors Association. That’s according to a joint statement from both groups. The transition is expected to happen in October.

I think with the announcement by PSPA to start a new group and a new assessment, we thought it was just in the best interest of the industry to consolidate activities and put this matter behind us, said ASPA's Zuanich.

PSPA President Glenn Reed said he expects the group to include most of those who had formerly left the MSC certificate and sought to get back in earlier this month. That includes Trident, Ocean Beauty, Icicle, Peter Pan and a handful of others, most of whom left the original MSC group several years ago, and sought to rejoin this spring to provide more markets for their product.

“We’re anticipating that it’s going to be most of those that have expressed interest over the last month, and if so, it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of about 30 different companies," Reed said.

ASPA Executive Director Rob Zuanich says he expects the processors who are part of the client group, including his company Silver Bay Seafoods which has helped lead the organization, to stick with the new group

Earlier this month, PSPA attempted to break the gridlock between the processors in the existing group and those wishing to join by applying for its own MSC certificate. It will no longer do so.

ASPA agreed to the transfer to end what Zuanich said had become a divisive issue.

“I think with the announcement by PSPA to start a new group and a new assessment, we thought it was just in the best interest of the industry to consolidate activities and put this matter behind us," Zuanich said.

Reed says that by taking over the existing client group, all processors are ensured access to MSC markets next summer, rather than risking that the new group isn’t certified in time.

Adding MSC’s blue label to salmon packaging doesn’t come cheap for processors who wish to do so. Reed saidys he doesn’t know how PSPA will divvy up that cost.

“Our goal is to have an equal cost sharing basis, either equal in some sort of unit of measure, I think in the past, if you go back far enough, they had somewhere between two or three categories, if you processed this many pounds, you were at this level, or a range of tonnage you were at a different level. I think that there’s also some consideration of just  doing it by weight. There may be other considerations, but the cost sharing basis will be the same for all members that choose to join," Reed said.

Zuanich says ASPA is not asking PSPA to reimburse it for prior costs associated with the certificate, but that the new group will be responsible for new costs going forward.

“No cost, just the new client group will now be responsible for maintaining the annual surveillance audits on the current certificate and hopefully in 2018 we’ll continue the certificate," Zuanich said.

The current certificate applies to most, but not all of Alaska’s salmon fisheries. Prince William Sound is excluded. Reeds says that’ll stand for now, but could change in the future.