Walmarts to continue stocking local salmon

Following his and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell’s recent success with Walmart Stores Inc., U.S. Sen. Mark Begich will continue his campaign requesting international food-chains stock Alaska seafood.

Begich on Friday wrote Sodexo USA President and CEO George Chavel asking that the corporation serve Alaska seafood not certified through the Marine Stewardship Council. In late June, Begich made the same request of Walmart Stores Inc. CEO Michael Duke.

And, Thursday, Begich shipped a halibut fillet to Domino’s Pizza Headquarters in Michigan, as a statement of concern about the pizza chain’s commercial “Powered by Pizza.” In a note, Begich asked Domino’s Pizza to stop being “halibut-haters.”

The seafood controversy began in January 2012 when much of Alaska’s fish packing industry opted out of the MSC certification program because of the program’s rising logo fees, inconsistent standards and increasing fees.

Since 2006, Walmart has required that seafood sold in its U.S. superstores be certified sustainable through MSC, according to the Walmart Stores Inc. sustainability blog.

During its Aug. 7 meeting, the Kenai City Council passed a resolution requesting Walmart buy non-MSC certified Alaska seafood.

“For them not to carry our salmon is crazy,” Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said.

“What better product is there than this?”

Walmart Stores Inc. did not return several phone calls placed Thursday and Friday. Chris Schraeder, sustainability communications senior manager, responded in an email that the corporation takes the “issue of sustainable seafood” very seriously.

“We recognize that our customers want to have a broad assortment of seafood options,” Schraeder said, “including seafood caught in Alaska.”

MSC is based in London, and industry officials said the program had lost its value after it certified too many fisheries as “sustainable.” Criticism also has been cast at the program as its certification required that fisheries receiving it comply to sustainable guidelines within five years.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute developed a certification program for fisheries following wide-spread dissent of MSC’s program. ASMI’s program based its standards on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Walmart Stores Inc. has invited Alaska to send Parnell and members of ASMI; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; and the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., according to the state of Alaska’s government website.

The team is intended to educate senior Walmart Stores Inc. executives and buyers of Alaska’s sustainable fishery management practices.

Dan Schwartz is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. The Juneau Empire also contributed to this report.