Marine Stewardship Council certifies the sustainability of fisheries that supply most of our seafood offerings
by Craig Weatherby
As our readers and customers know, Vital Choice sells only wild fish and shellfish harvested in a sustainable manner.
And most of our fish and fish products are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
This international non-profit organization was set up in 1997 to promote solutions to the problem of overfishing, and the MSC now runs the only widely recognized environmental certification and eco-labeling program for wild-harvest fisheries.
Importantly, the MSC is the only seafood eco-label consistent with the guidelines for fisheries certification set by the United Nations.
MSC honored by major consumer magazine
Last month, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) received recognition from the British edition of Good Housekeeping magazine.
This award and the publicity attending it are very welcome.
Sustainability certifications like those given by the MSC can help tighten governments' regulation of fisheries and the behavior of fishing industries.
But this will only happen if a critical mass of consumers begins to demand certified-sustainable seafood, and look for eco-labels like the MSC's blue oval.
The work of the MSC was recognized at the 4th Annual Good Housekeeping Awards that took place in London on February 25, 2008.
The MSC was given the award for Outstanding Contribution to Food for its work in raising awareness of sustainable fishing and promoting sustainable seafood choices through its blue eco-label.
Here's how the magazine expressed its reasons for the award (GHM 2008):
- “Tackling the problem of over-fishing and the near extinction of our favorite fish, such as cod and skate, hasn't been easy, but this global, non-profit organization has made many changes of which it can be proud.”
- “There's now a blue fish logo on packaging that's easy for supermarket shoppers to spot in store. Any fish product carrying the MSC logo is guaranteed to come from healthy stocks and will have been caught using non-damaging techniques—reassuring knowledge for consumers.”
- “The website, msc.org, offers a wealth of information, including lists of where you can buy sustainable fish, whether fresh or processed. Plans for the future include certifying schools, restaurants and hotels that feature sustainable fish on their menus.”
Entries for the awards were nominated by a panel of experts, and Raymond Blanc, the Michelin-starred chef who presented the award, made these comments:
“Our seas are a fantastic resource but we have used them without care for too long. Those of us producing food, the chefs and cooks, need to be a part of the process of changing the way we think about fish.”
“The work of the Marine Stewardship Council is so, so important in this if we are to have fish on the plate in the restaurant and at home in the future” (MSC 2008).
Vital Choice, sustainability, and the MSC
Certification of fisheries is a slow, laborious process, and it will take many years for the MSC and similar organizations just to assess fisheries that request certification, which is a voluntary, expensive process.
As noted on our Sustainability page, most of the fish and shellfish species we currently sell come from fisheries that are certified sustainable, either by the Marine Stewardship Council and/or by the State of Alaska.
- The State of Alaska certifies as sustainable the fisheries that supply our Weathervane Scallops, Spot Prawns, and King Crab (To learn how the State acts to protect its valuable Salmon fisheries, see “Alaska Projects Healthy 2008 Salmon Harvest”).
- The MSC certifies that specific Vital Choice Salmon products come from sustainable Alaskan fisheries: Wild Red™ canned Alaska Salmon, Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Oil, Pouched Alaska Sockeye Salmon, Silver and King Salmon portions, Alaskan Sockeye Salmon fillet, Smoked Alaskan Sockeye and King Salmon.
- The MSC certifies the sustainability of the fisheries that supply our Alaskan Salmon (Sockeye, King, and Silver), Alaskan Halibut, Alaskan Sablefish, and North Pacific Albacore Tuna as sustainable.
- The MSC certifies that our Sockeye Salmon Sausages and Burgers contain only sustainably harvested Alaskan Sockeye.
Only two Vital Choice product categories include seafood whose sustainable fisheries are not yet certified:
- The Canadian Sockeye Salmon that goes into 8 out of our 11 Wild Red™ canned offerings comes from a healthy, abundant fishery in British Columbia that is undergoing the MSC assessment process. (Three Wild Red™ canned products contain Alaskan Sockeye: Easy-Open 7.5 oz. Traditional, Canned/Smoked 5.5. oz, and Skinless-Boneless Pouched 6 oz.)
- Our Portuguese Sardines come from a fishery that is widely considered abundant and sustainable.)
We will continue to limit our offerings to fish and shellfish from fisheries that are either certified sustainable, or considered clearly sustainable by experts in the field.
- Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Good Housekeeping magazine honors Marine Stewardship Council for Outstanding Contribution to Food. Accessed online March 22, 2008 at http://eng.msc.org.
- Good Housekeeping magazine (GHM). You voted for your top foods - the results are in. Accessed online March 22, 2008 at http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/index.php/v1/You_voted_for_your_top_foods_-_the_results_are_in