Media Release: Media Release: Conservation Groups Object to Marine Stewardship Council’s “Green Light” to Alaskan Harvest of Endangered Salmon

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 30, 2013

PO Box 402 Duvall, WA 98019
Tel +1 425-788-1167

PO Box 2429 Sidney, BC, V8L 3Y3
Tel +1 250-655-1229

1037 Madore Ave., Coquitlam, BC V3K 3B7
Tel +1 604-936-9474

4505 Greig Ave, Terrace, BC V8G 1M6
Tel +1 250-638-0998


Kurt Beardslee (Wild Fish Conservancy):, +1-206-310-9301

Aaron Hill (Watershed Watch Salmon Society):, +1-250-818-0054

Greg Knox (SkeenaWild Conservation Trust):, +1-250-615-1990

Misty MacDuffee (Raincoast Conservation Foundation):, +1-250-818-2136


Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC — Four conservation groups from two countries have joined forces to launch an official objection to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) proposed re-certification of Alaskan salmon fisheries. Wild Fish Conservancy, from Washington State, along with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, based in British Columbia (BC), say that the MSC eco-label is turning a blind eye to serious overfishing in Southeast Alaska.

The groups say that Alaskan fishermen intercept too many salmon from endangered populations as the fish migrate through Alaskan waters on their way to spawning grounds in BC and the continental US. The official objection focused on the Southeast Alaska “unit of certification” where the groups would like the MSC to apply conservation conditions that would address the overfishing of wild Chinook, sockeye, and chum salmon, and require fishermen to report the numbers of steelhead trout that they take as by-catch and keep or discard.

“The Alaskans are good at not overfishing their own wild salmon runs”, said Kurt Beardslee of the Wild Fish Conservancy, “and we’d just like to see them extend the same conservation ethic to some of these salmon runs in BC, Washington, and Oregon that are in serious trouble.“

The Chinook salmon fishery is considered the most problematic, for its impacts on endangered runs. The report that MSC has accepted from the certifying body acknowledges that over 96% of Chinook salmon caught in the Southeast Alaskan fishery originate from rivers outside Alaska.

“The Southeast Alaskan Chinook fishery is actually a fishery for non-Alaskan fish, and it harvests those fish at levels far surpassing what fisheries scientists consider a maximum sustainable yield”, said Aaron Hill of Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “People who buy Alaskan Chinook (or king) salmon need to know that they could actually be buying a fish that was from an endangered run in BC, Washington, or Oregon”, continued Hill.

“The third-party certifier hired by the fishing industry was essentially given permission by the MSC to pull some procedural sleight-of-hand”, said Greg Knox of SkeenaWild. “MSC let them consider the various Chinook runs exploited by the fishery as large groups, rather than looking at the status of the individual runs. This allowed the certifier to ignore the rampant overfishing of the endangered runs. They did it at the 11th hour, and without consulting stakeholders.”

The groups contrast MSC’s treatment of overfishing in Southeast Alaska with the Council’s more prudent stance on the Prince William Sound fishery, which was withheld from receiving the coveted blue eco-label, due to the massive, risky ocean-ranching operations that dominate that region of Alaska.



Wild Fish Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the recovery and conservation of the Northwest region’s wild-fish ecosystems, with over 2,500 members. Wild Fish Conservancy’s staff of over 20 professional scientists, advocates, and educators works to promote technically and socially responsible habitat, hatchery, and harvest management to better sustain the region’s wild fish heritage.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society is a Canadian charity whose mission is to catalyze efforts to protect and restore British Columbia’s precious wild salmon. Through scientific expertise, strategic alliances, outreach programs, and innovative projects, Watershed Watch is at the forefront in sounding the alarm on threats to salmon, and in prompting action to help them.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation is a team of scientists and conservationists who use peer-reviewed science and grassroots activism to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia.  We Investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We Inform by bringing science to decision makers and communities. We Inspire action to protect wildlife and their wilderness habitats.

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust is a regional conservation initiative whose goal is to make the Skeena River watershed and nearby coastal communities a global model of sustainability. SkeenaWild is rooted in the belief that salmon are the heart of the Skeena’s diverse cultures, economy, and ecosystem. Protecting these iconic fish is fundamental to maintaining and building a healthy watershed and local communities. 

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