Retail giant Walmart announced Friday that it will continue to sell Alaska salmon in its stores, a move that comes after months of debate between state seafood advocates and the world’s largest retailer over the sustainability of Alaska seafood.
At question was what kind of sustainability certification the company would accept: the one Walmart had used for nearly a decade, or an alternative backed by the Alaska seafood industry.
In a Thursday post on the company’s “The Green Room” sustainability blog, the retailer announced that it “has proudly sourced seafood from the state of Alaska for many years, and under our newly revised sustainable sourcing policy, we will continue to do so.”
Since 2006 Walmart has used a London-based nonprofit called the Marine Stewardship Council to certify it’s seafood as sustainable.
In recent years many Alaska salmon fishermen said the MSC certification was too costly, and came with fluctuating requirements. Many opted instead to certify the sustainability of their catch through an alternative program known as Responsible Fisheries Management.
Backed by ASMI, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the RFM standard was a point of contention for Walmart, who said it would stop stocking Alaska seafood if it didn’t meet the MSC sustainability standards.
Discussions on Alaska’s seafood sustainability led to state officials visiting Walmart’s Arkansas headquarters in September; Walmart officials continued the conversation in a visit to Juneau earlier this month.
In its blog post, the company’s vice president of meat and seafood David Baskin wrote that the RFM certification caused Walmart to turn outside sustainability experts and “(take) another look at our policy.”
“We’re pleased to incorporate the latest science by applying TSC’s principles to our sustainable seafood policy … ASMI is working with us to show how the RFM program meets these principles,” Baskin wrote.
The decision comes as “vindication of Alaska’s seafood sustainability process,” said ASMI Communications Director.
“This isn’t just about salmon, it’s about RFM certified seafood like Pollock, cod, halibut, crab, and more,” Fick said.
Walmart’s decision was met by statements of support by Alaska representatives who had engaged with the retailer to keep Alaska salmon on its shelves.
“Today's announcement from WalMart is clear vindication of our superior sustainable management practices. This is a significant step in confirming wild Alaska seafood as the benchmark for sustainability,” wrote Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in a release.
“I have been calling on Walmart executives for months now to revise their sustainability policy,” Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) wrote in a release. “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.”