A good buy or greenwashing? Seafood eco-label misleading

April 3, 2024

By: David Mills

David Mills, Watershed Watch Salmon Society Fisheries Advisor

In 1988, news networks across North America and Europe aired shocking video of tuna seiners killing countless dolphins as they hauled in their prized catch. Outraged consumers showed their repulsion with their pocketbooks and stopped buying tuna.

The bottom fell out of the market and not long after “dolphin-safe” labels began to appear on tuna cans and Canadian, American and European lawmakers adopted hefty fines for fraudulent labelling. Consumers selectively returned to the market, rewarding sustainable tuna fisheries.

Our wallets are a powerful weapon.

Three decades later there has been phenomenal growth in seafood consumption but can we still trust that eco-friendly label?

Sadly, no.

The Marine Stewardship Council, a U.K.-based seafood certification organization, first certified the Alaska salmon fishery as sustainable in 2000. The current certificate expires in May 2024 but MSC is expected to recertify the Alaskan salmon fishery as sustainable for another five years, despite overwhelming evidence that it is not – including its devastating bycatch of B.C. wild salmon.

Here in B.C. we have watched a steep decline in our fisheries even as consumption grows. That is due in no small part to the interception fisheries in southeast Alaska, which caught over three million B.C. salmon last year.

When British Columbians walk into their local grocery store, they more than likely see only Alaskan salmon on offer. But that “sustainable Alaskan” salmon you’re looking at may not be sustainable, or even Alaskan. Offshore processing and lax management mean the line of fleet ownership has grown ever more opaque.

Alaskan salmon is easy to find on B.C. grocery store shelves. (Photo by David Mills)

And our mainstream eco-labelers, like the Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, and Vancouver’s own Ocean Wise, are not doing much to sort out the mess when it comes to salmon.

The Marine Stewardship Council seemed like the solution in 1990 when it promised to provide consumers a guarantee they were buying sustainably caught seafood from well-managed fisheries.

Today, the MSC has become part of the green-washing problem. The organization certifies salmon fisheries in southeast Alaska even though they don’t properly monitor or record their massive bycatch of B.C.-bound salmon and they turn a blind eye to the Seattle-based mid-water trawlers that discard thousands of tonnes of chinook and halibut and killed at least 10 orcas (all females) in Alaskan fisheries last summer.

Trust is the currency of eco-labelers like the MSC. Decades ago, consumers stopped trusting they could eat tuna without contributing to the slaughter of dolphins and that consumer boycott reformed an out-of-control fishery.

Can you trust the MSC’s famous blue check mark when you see it on a package of Alaskan salmon today? No. The label is misleading and, if you want to see wild B.C. salmon survive, meaningless.

The seafood industry pays royalties to MSC from the sale of certified products. That means the organization stands to lose a substantial amount of revenues if it does not certify big fisheries like those in Alaska. It’s a clear conflict of interest.

The tuna boycott showed that, as consumers, our voices and our choices in the grocery store matter. Source your salmon from local suppliers that buy from sustainable fisheries, like Skipper Otto, or get it direct from the fishers themselves, like is offered by Authentic Indigenous Seafood.

Send the Marine Stewardship Council a letter today. Tell them that you can no longer trust their word is enough because they’re green-washing Alaska’s plunder.

 

Share This Story!

A good buy or greenwashing? Seafood eco-label misleading

April 3, 2024

By: David Mills

David Mills, Watershed Watch Salmon Society Fisheries Advisor

In 1988, news networks across North America and Europe aired shocking video of tuna seiners killing countless dolphins as they hauled in their prized catch. Outraged consumers showed their repulsion with their pocketbooks and stopped buying tuna.

The bottom fell out of the market and not long after “dolphin-safe” labels began to appear on tuna cans and Canadian, American and European lawmakers adopted hefty fines for fraudulent labelling. Consumers selectively returned to the market, rewarding sustainable tuna fisheries.

Our wallets are a powerful weapon.

Three decades later there has been phenomenal growth in seafood consumption but can we still trust that eco-friendly label?

Sadly, no.

The Marine Stewardship Council, a U.K.-based seafood certification organization, first certified the Alaska salmon fishery as sustainable in 2000. The current certificate expires in May 2024 but MSC is expected to recertify the Alaskan salmon fishery as sustainable for another five years, despite overwhelming evidence that it is not – including its devastating bycatch of B.C. wild salmon.

Here in B.C. we have watched a steep decline in our fisheries even as consumption grows. That is due in no small part to the interception fisheries in southeast Alaska, which caught over three million B.C. salmon last year.

When British Columbians walk into their local grocery store, they more than likely see only Alaskan salmon on offer. But that “sustainable Alaskan” salmon you’re looking at may not be sustainable, or even Alaskan. Offshore processing and lax management mean the line of fleet ownership has grown ever more opaque.

Alaskan salmon is easy to find on B.C. grocery store shelves. (Photo by David Mills)

And our mainstream eco-labelers, like the Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, and Vancouver’s own Ocean Wise, are not doing much to sort out the mess when it comes to salmon.

The Marine Stewardship Council seemed like the solution in 1990 when it promised to provide consumers a guarantee they were buying sustainably caught seafood from well-managed fisheries.

Today, the MSC has become part of the green-washing problem. The organization certifies salmon fisheries in southeast Alaska even though they don’t properly monitor or record their massive bycatch of B.C.-bound salmon and they turn a blind eye to the Seattle-based mid-water trawlers that discard thousands of tonnes of chinook and halibut and killed at least 10 orcas (all females) in Alaskan fisheries last summer.

Trust is the currency of eco-labelers like the MSC. Decades ago, consumers stopped trusting they could eat tuna without contributing to the slaughter of dolphins and that consumer boycott reformed an out-of-control fishery.

Can you trust the MSC’s famous blue check mark when you see it on a package of Alaskan salmon today? No. The label is misleading and, if you want to see wild B.C. salmon survive, meaningless.

The seafood industry pays royalties to MSC from the sale of certified products. That means the organization stands to lose a substantial amount of revenues if it does not certify big fisheries like those in Alaska. It’s a clear conflict of interest.

The tuna boycott showed that, as consumers, our voices and our choices in the grocery store matter. Source your salmon from local suppliers that buy from sustainable fisheries, like Skipper Otto, or get it direct from the fishers themselves, like is offered by Authentic Indigenous Seafood.

Send the Marine Stewardship Council a letter today. Tell them that you can no longer trust their word is enough because they’re green-washing Alaska’s plunder.

 

Share This Story!

Stand with us to defend wild Pacific salmon

Stand with us to defend wild Pacific salmon

Leave A Comment

Related Posts