Thumbs Up for President Obama who Announces Plan to Protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay From Future Oil and Gas Drilling!!!

cropped-yellow-fin-tuna-school3

In a White house press release and video message posted online, President Obama announced his plan to designate Bristol Bay as off limits to consideration for oil and gas leasing, exploration and drilling — an action that will safeguard waters that help provide 40 percent of USA’s wild-caught seafood, support a $2 billion annual fishing industry, and are vital to the commercial fishing and tourism economy and to Alaska Native communities.

In a Press release by the white house…

President Obama designated the pristine waters of Bristol Bay as off limits to consideration for oil and gas leasing.  This action safeguards one of the nation’s most productive fisheries and preserves an ecologically rich area of the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska that is vital to the commercial fishing and tourism economy and to Alaska Native communities.”

Using his executive powers Obama proclamated (see Youtube clip):

Under Authority granted me in Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 USC 1341(a), this withdrawal prevents consideration of this area for any oil or gas leasing for purposes of exploration, development or production.”

According to the Whitehouse Press release:

Bristol Bay is at the heart one of the world’s most valuable fisheries, helping to provide 40 percent of America’s wild-caught seafood and support a $2 billion annual fishing industry.  The beautiful and remote area is also an economic engine for tourism in Alaska, driving $100 million in recreational fishing and tourism activity every year. Bristol Bay hosts the largest runs of wild sockeye salmon in the world, and provides important habitat for many species, including the threatened Stellar’s eider, sea otters, seals, walruses, Beluga and Killer whales, and the endangered North Pacific Right Whale. 

Today’s decision to withdraw the area from all future oil and gas leasing extends indefinitely a temporary withdrawal that President Obama issued in 2010 and was set to expire in 2017.  This action builds on decades of local efforts to protect Bristol Bay from oil and gas development by Alaska Native tribes and organizations, as well as local seafood and tourism businesses that create jobs and strengthen Alaska and the nation’s economy. It also honors the legacy of Alaska residents like Harold ‘Harvey’ Samuelsen, a salmon fisherman who is legendary for his lifelong dedication to Bristol Bay and to creating economic opportunities for Alaska Native and rural communities.

The North Aleutian Basin Planning Area that includes Bristol Bay consists of approximately 32.5 million acres, a portion of which was leased in the mid-1980s but never developed due to litigation.  The previous Administration set in motion a new lease sale for 2011 that would have opened approximately 5.6 million acres – about one-fifth of the planning area – for drilling.

In 2010, President Obama temporarily withdrew the Bristol Bay area from oil and gas development, exercising his authority under section 12 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the President authority to withdraw offshore areas from potential oil and gas leasing. President Eisenhower was the first to exercise the authority in 1960, withdrawing an area now included in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Since then, Presidents on both sides of the aisle have acted to withdraw areas of the Outer Continental Shelf from oil and gas leasing.

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act of 1953, the Department of the Interior develops a new leasing program every five years for energy development in federal offshore waters.

The current Five Year Program for 2012–2017, which expires in August 2017, schedules 15 potential lease sales in six planning areas with the greatest resource potential, including more than 75 percent of the estimated undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore waters.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is currently developing the 2017-2022 program, which includes opportunities for public comment.

Map Showing Area of Bristol bay, Alaska being protected by Obama's Proclamation (Source: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/collections/protecting-bristol-bay)

Map Showing Area of Bristol bay, Alaska being protected by Obama’s Proclamation (Source: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/collections/protecting-bristol-bay)

Culmination of Years of Campaigning by eNGOs, Fishers and other organisation

This Action by the US President must have come as GIGANTIC relief for a multitude of campaigners that have been working hard for years, trying to ensure the protection of this pristine wilderness area.

Bristol Bay Wilderness: (Source: http://pool32mag.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/save-bristol-bay-from-threatening_1016.html Photo: Erin McKittrick)

Bristol Bay Wilderness: (Source: http://pool32mag.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/save-bristol-bay-from-threatening_1016.html Photo: Erin McKittrick)

For more information about Bristol Bay
Advertisements

Walmart says it will begin accepting seafood certification programmes other than the Marine Stewardship Council

cropped-yellow-fin-tuna-school3

I just read in the Guardian what I honestly thought might have occurred 4 months ago….

Walmart says it will begin accepting seafood certified programmes other than the Marine Stewardship Council.”

Is it true? Have Walmart done an about turn on something they vilified just a year ago? Has Walmart just made an about face accepting the sustainability certification based on the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (COCRF)? I wasn’t sure I was reading correctly until my colleague sent me an email that with the dismissively cool subject title “Walmart accepts RFM standard” and an attached PDF of an article from Intrafish “Walmart: ASMI-backed program meets sourcing guidelines.” But the ‘coolness’ and lack of comment spoke volumes… We both have been following the intrigue and we both know the symbolism embedded in Walmart’s announcement.

So I don’t have to pinch myself… its true… here is some further evidence of its veracity:

On Thursday (23 January 2014) almost 4 months after acknowledging the kinks in its sustainable seafood sourcing policy at a US Senate hearing, Walmart’s Vice President of meat and seafood, David Baskin, announced that Walmart (the world’s largest retailer) had decided to expand its sustainable seafood policy (SSP) to include certification programmes other than the Marine Stewardship Council. Prior to the revision of the SSP the the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) backed Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM)  certification programme was problematic for Walmart, who announced in 2013 that it would have to stop stocking Alaska seafood if it didn’t meet the MSC sustainable fisheries standard.

The progress towards Walmart’s sustainable seafood sourcing policy has been a slow one, with strong pressure being exerted by eNGOs who have undertaken to walk away from Walmart’s sustainability programme [NGOs push walmart to defy congress]. On the other hand, it is arguable that this call to defy congress, is nothing more than final push by the eNGOs who could see the recognition of the RFM by Walmart as inevitable after the United States General Services Administration (GSA) wrote MSC out of their sustainable sourcing policy in September 2013.

In an earlier post I quoted from a letter from GSA’s David Blue to US Senator Murkowski:

GSA’s believes that American managed fisheries do not require third-party certification to demonstrate responsible and sustainable practices.  GSA and HHS designed the Guidelines to make healthy choices more accessible and appealing.  We intended the Guideline’s citation of third-party certification organizations to serve as helpful examples for potential bidders, not as eliminating factors.  Our goal was to broaden choices, not to restrict options.”

In my mind this revision by GSA was the first indication that MSC’s prominent position as the principal market access gatekeeper was being eroded. The revision of the Walmart SSP goes further; by recognising the RFM programme as an acceptable third-party sustainable certification standard, it paves the way for viable market access alternatives to MSC.  In this way the revision of the SSP by Walmart has the potential to have far reaching effects for the sustainable certification of seafood worldwide. The initial effect of this announcement is that Walmart can continue to stock Alaska seafood in accordance with its SSP.

The revised policy provides for the inclusion of a management programme that accords with the Principles of Credible Sustainability Programs developed by The Sustainability Consortium (TSC). It must be noted that acceptance by the TSC may be subject to a third party review. So acceptance is not assured. However, initially the Walmart SSP  stipulated that  all fresh and frozen, farmed and wild seafood suppliers to source from fisheries who are:

What are the short-term and long term effects?

Alaskan Airline's Wild Alaskan Salmon 737 - Note the Alaskan Fisheries Marketing Board Logo just below the Captain's side window.

Alaskan Airline’s Wild Alaskan Salmon 737 – Note the Alaskan Fisheries Marketing Board Logo just below the Captain’s side window. Source: http://www.airlinereporter.com

According to ktuu.com who quoted ASMI Communications Director, Tyson Fick:

The decision comes as vindication of Alaska’s seafood sustainability process. This isn’t just about salmon, it’s about RFM certified seafood like Pollock, cod, halibut, crab, and more.”

And Alaska Democratic Senator Mark Begich (chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard):

This is why I’m pleased that they have finally come full circle with a full reversal of their sustainability policies … to purchase Alaska seafood

So first hats off to Walmart!!!

Just like the ASMI they are trail blazing! And trail blazers are fabulous aren’t they?

Walmart deserve recognition as trail blazers because, not only did they soak up to the pressure; they had faith in seafood professionals who implement progress before PR, who put in the work to make sure their harvest is responsible and that their resource endurable. But mostly they deserve the trail blazer tag because of their acceptance of the RFM as a legitimate and acceptable seafood certification programme, even though the RFM is a sustainability programme that is outside environmental NGO sphere of influence. This is a move that cannot be under-estimated given that for the past decade environmental NGOs like WWF, have been (at least in fact) the self-imposed “what is sustainable and what is not sustainable” gate keepers. This position as market access gatekeepers has been a lucrative cashcow for a number of eNGOs who have built ticket clipping consultancy businesses around demonstrating sustainable sourcing. I am happy to see this position being abraded… I for one do not equate eNGOs with commercial consultancy.

In my opinion:

The acceptance of the RFM by Walmart is a step into the future… where primary producers will demonstrate the responsibility, the endurability and yes, the sustainability of their harvested resource, and where in consideration of the demonstration retailers will stock it and sell it to their customers…

This recognition of the Alaskan Responsible Fisheries (RFM) certification programme by Walmart is courageous, it will no doubt attract some flack from the media and eNGOs (who are no doubt very aware of the symbolism of the RFM recognition). But us netizens… as shoppers of sustainable seafood, as quid pro quo for Walmart’s bravado, should blaze a trail with our dollars and embrace Walmart’s purchasing policy.

Sadly I am unable to purchase seafood in Walmart today… But I am not based in the USA nor in a country with a Walmart. So please go give Walmart a pecuniary high five on my behalf… and have some salmon for dinner. ^^

Alaska: According to US consumers Alaska is setting the gold-standard for sustainable seafood

cropped-yellow-fin-tuna-school3

I just read in Seafood News something I never thought I’d see a year or so ago – especially after the criticism of Global Trust and their application of fisheries standard based on U.N. FAO standards (Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) programme), which was embraced by ASMI as a viable alternative to MSC certification see report by the Environmental Law Institute that described the RFM program as industry developed and controlled) –According to Laine Welch on Alaska Fish Radio with Laine Welch [10 January, 2014 ] Alaska is setting the “gold-standard for sustainable seafood.”

A Salmon Fishing Bear, Alaska.  Photo Source: oregonsunshine.wordpress.com (Common Myths about Alaska, 29 Oct 2008)

A Salmon Fishing Bear, Alaska.
Photo Source: oregonsunshine.wordpress.com (Common Myths about Alaska, 29 Oct 2008)

According to Laine Welch:

Wal-Mart reps are in Juneau this week to learn more about Alaska’s salmon management, to make sure it’s up to snuff with the company’s sustainability criteria. Alaska opted out of the high priced Marine Stewardship Council eco-label which Wal-Mart uses as its purchasing standard. Alaska instead adopted the UN’s Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program for sustainability certification.

Meanwhile, a nationwide poll of more than 1,000 U.S. seafood consumers revealed strong support for Alaska as the gold-standard of healthy, sustainable seafood. In a survey last month by the Washington, DC-based Prime Group, 66 percent rated the quality of Alaska seafood as very high, and a whopping 97 percent viewed it as more or as sustainable than other seafood. Alaska caught seafood is preferred to Russian caught by 87 percent to one. Forty percent of those surveyed said they prefer certification based on UN standards versus only 19 percent based on standards set by a ‘private, nonprofit organization.’ Thirty one percent had no preference. When asked about characteristics that might justify a 10% price premium, caught in the wild got a 46 percent rating, certified sustainable was at 40 percent and Alaska-caught garnered 36 percent of the responses. And 53% disapproved of the MSC policy of approving fisheries that are on a path to sustainability.

The nationwide poll was commissioned by “Alaska Salmon Now” – a grassroots group of Alaska fishing families and US consumers pressuring Wal-Mart to fully embrace Alaska salmon. Wal-Mart appears poised to do so.”

(See the full survey at www.alaskafishradio.com)

Alaskan Wild Salmon Marketing Poster

Alaskan Wild Salmon Marketing Poster

Related articles

MSC responds to ASMI with a 5 page epistle that lashes out at critics, for what they see as “negative and inaccurate statements”

cropped-yellow-fin-tuna-school3

According to SeafoodSource.com MSC has fired a shot back. In a piece  (MSC fights back against ASMI) published last week (Friday, 27 September 2013) SeafoodSource wrote that Kerry Coughlin, regional director for the Americas for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), is speaking out in a lengthy 5 page statement, lashing out at critics, including  the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, U.S. senators from Alaska, and even the industry media for what she says are “negative and inaccurate statements”  about the MSC.

SeafoodSource.com writes:

The MSC has been at odds with ASMI for years, but the statement comes on the heels of a 24 September hearing by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard that examined the need for third-party certification programs like the MSC’s.

In the statement, described as an “open letter and fact sheet,” Kerry Coughlin, regional director for the Americas for the MSC, described the hearing as a “particularly egregious example of biased and inaccurate discussion,” and blasted the committee’s chair, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, for keeping the MSC out of the hearing.

“With due respect to Chairman Begich, exclusion from the hearing of the MSC, the world’s leading seafood sustainability certification program and a main subject of the hearing, suggests the purpose of the hearing was not to gather informative testimony on the subject but to posit a particular position based on misinformation,” Coughlin wrote.

Coughlin also challenged Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who also made headlines this week in her criticism of the involvement of third-party certification programs in government activities. On 24 September, Murkowski praised a decision by the U.S. General Services Administration to confirm it will not let third-party groups such as NGOs influence its definition of sustainable seafood. The senator has also proposed legislation that would further prohibit federal agencies from using third-party certification programs.

Coughlin blasted Murkowski’s assertions that the MSC is “meddling” in fisheries management or is too expensive for fisheries to afford applying for certification, and noted that “the Governor and U.S. Senators from Alaska have never contacted the MSC to obtain information from us on our program.”

Coughlin also responded to Murkowski’s assertion that the MSC is a foreign entity forcing its will upon a domestic industry, saying, “MSC isn’t ‘foreign,’ Senator Murkowski; it’s global. And Alaska and its thriving fishing economy and jobs are fully part of and dependent on that global industry.”

Coughlin also criticized the Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program. Based on U.N. FAO standards, the program has been touted by ASMI as a viable alternative to MSC certification, but Coughlin accused ASMI of spending more than USD 7 million “of industry and taxpayer money” on developing and promoting the program. She also cited a report by the Environmental Law Institute that described the RFM program as “industry developed and controlled.”

Coughlin insisted the MSC wants to work with Alaska to showcase its sustainability.

This isn’t about Alaska feeling it doesn’t need to prove its sustainability to anyone as Senator Murkowski has suggested,” she wrote. “Instead Alaska and the U. S. have an opportunity to continue to be leaders among world fisheries by demonstrating we as a nation meet the world’s leading standard for sustainability and would expect other fisheries worldwide to do the same.”

I find it interesting that MSC chides ASMI, slaps them on the hands and says  “MSC isn’t ‘foreign… it’s global. And Alaska and its thriving fishing economy and jobs are fully part of and dependent on that global industry.” Yes Kerry Coughlin the Seafood Industry is a global industry, but MSC is not! MSC is an “independent international non-profit organisation.

It is true, MSC has a global reach, as far as it is available globally. In this way MSC is like Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, Hyundai cars and Bonita bananas are also global. Yet at the same time all of these products are foreign. They don’t come from Alaska or indeed the USA. They are globally available Italian, Korean & Ecuadorian products. Having a product with global reach does not make the same global. In this way, MSC is a European product (a 3rd party certification product that fisheries use to illustrate the status of their fishery against sustainability benchmarks that is globally available. This is an important distinction to make.

There is no doubt that the fisheries certification market is undergoing a period of flux… One where the current market leader (MSC) is for the first time in a long while, receiving some significant scrutiny, especially with respect to some of the more equitable and inequitable effects of the fisheries standard.

Currently, MSC is very much still the market leader… light years ahead of its competition. But I would say that this is the is not just a comfort, it is a problem. On their own, without credible competition they are a tall poppy, the only game in town andas a consequence a potential repository of criticism. I believe that the arrival of some head to head competition is a good thing. Good for both MSC, and for the seafood market in general.

What we have seen is that the ‘certified sustainable’ market is increasingly a cluttered one, and  there are a good many organisations dropping their gloves and rolling up their sleeves! If ASMI has done anything, they shown just how vulnerable MSC really is to some robust competition and I see more coming on the horizon.  And when it arrives, it will be decisive and quick.

That said it is important to keep in mind that after the initial dust settles, and the outlines of seafood certification options slowly crystallise and come into view, seafood producers and customers alike will be all the more enriched with market innovations and sustainable indications. This can only be good.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Banner. Source MSC

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Banner. Source MSC

Related Articles