How Alaska’s Industrial Hatcheries Sought New Eco-Label while Harming Wild Stocks

Monique Couture’s master thesis at Western Washington University in 2016 delves into the ongoing controversy of eco-labeling of Alaska’s salmon fisheries as sustainable by third-party certification programs like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

“Leveraging Legitimacy: How Alaska Circumvented Salmon Sustainability by Creating Their Own Eco-Label” is based on surveys with stakeholders Alaska’s salmon fisheries.

From the Abstract:

Eco-labelling programs have become an important market mechanism of environmental governance. The Alaska salmon eco-certification case study provides a rich opportunity to analyze whether industry created eco-labelling programs can foster legitimate resource sustainability. This paper investigates the motives of the Alaska industry in the withdrawal of the salmon fisheries from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, and creation of an Alaska label in 2011. It is argued that Alaska circumvented salmon sustainability by creating its own eco-label. This paper suggests the motive for the emergence of a new fisheries eco-certification initiative was to gain an eco-label through less stringent conformance criteria. In this case, Alaska sought to certify fisheries engaged in industrial hatcheries, which are harming wild stocks, as sustainable. Finally, market mechanism disciplinary discourse logic implies both a ratcheting up of market-wide environmental performance and legitimacy. This study illuminates an intriguing example of an eco-label that runs contrary to this.

Click here to download the report.

At the same time Alaska’s commercial fishing industry was trying to circumvent independent third-party review through MSC certification of sustainable fisheries, which includes an examination of whether or not industrial hatcheries pose a threat to wild salmon stocks, the push was being made to increase the capacity of these operations. Valdez Fisheries Development Association proposed a 30 percent increase in capacity and production of their industrial pink salmon operations, from 230 million to 300 million, in a phased in approach that had no scientific sideboards to see what an increase by 30 percent of hatchery pinks would do on wild salmon stocks.

KRSA is asking for a halt on such expansion in a request to the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Comment here to advocate that the BOF act to Alaska’s wild salmon.