Processors hit impasse over sustainability label

The two groups of processors at odds over who can put the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue sustainability label on their fish appear to be at an impasse, says Chris Hladick, the state’s commissioner of commerce, community and economic development.

“This is gonna be July here, which is gonna be the height of the red salmon run in Dillingham, so I don’t think there’s gonna be any resolution to it at this point, not what I’ve seen,” Hladick said.

This spring, a group of ten processors including Trident, Leader Creek, North Pacific, Peter Pan, Icicle, Ocean Beauty and others asked to access the certification, which is held by the nonprofit Alaska Salmon Processors Association. Silver Bay heads up that organization; Copper River is also a member.

The MSC label is needed to sell salmon in certain European markets.

The two groups have been going back and forth about the terms under which the new group can join. The MSC sponsored mediation, but that failed, so the organization suggested binding arbitration.

They couldn’t agree on that, either, Hladick says.

“ASPA originally said they would do it, and then when only a portion of the Trident group agreed to do it, then ASPA pulled out,” Hladick said.

Hladick says the governor wants to ensure that there’s a market for Alaska salmon.

It’s unclear what the next step is or who will make it now that the MSC’s suggestion has failed. But Hladick says over the next year or two he’ll work with the MSC on changes to the system to prevent a similar issue in the future.

“I’m going to be working with MSC to make sure this doesn’t ever happen again, that people don’t get shut out of the MSC certification program,” Hladick said.

Sorting that out could take a year or two.