In a victory for Alaska salmon fishermen, a Wal-Mart official announced Friday that Alaska seafood will stay on the retailer's shelves.
In a blog posting, vice president of meat and seafood David Baskin wrote that the company would continue to take seafood from the state of Alaska "under our newly revised sustainable sourcing policy."
The policy, posted at walmartgreenroom.com, states Wal-Mart U.S. and Sam's Club will accept seafood certified as sustainable by The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) as well as by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Concern that the retail giant, reported to sell 25 million pounds of Alaska seafood each year, might stop carrying Alaska salmon emerged after the Department of Fish and Game opted out of the MSC program, citing cost, 0.3-0.5 percent of the wholesale price of the product, and other factors. Players in the Alaska salmon industry proposed using a separate program, Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM), to assure consumers that wild Alaska salmon was a sustainable product.
The Wal-Mart policy at the time recognized only MSC certification. The London-based group is the oldest organization certifying seafood sustainability and is particularly prominent in Europe, though the MSC logo has been required by notable American meal providers like McDonalds and the National Park Service.
The change in policy happened after a high-level delegation presented the state's case at Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas and Wal-Mart officials visited Alaska.
The decision to add TSC, an international coalition of scientific and business groups co-managed by the University of Arkansas, to the Wal-Mart policy seems to resolve the matter.
"It shows Wal-Mart is confident that Alaska salmon is sustainable," said Tyson Fick, communications manager for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which helped facilitate the creation of the RFM. "They see that we're using the TSC principals as guidance and have found it to pass their muster."
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.
By MIKE DUNHAM