By MARK THIESSEN
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Nearly 40 Alaska fishermen protested Wednesday outside an Anchorage Wal-Mart store, upset with a decision by the company about how it buys seafood.
Holding signs like “Buy American? Start with Alaska Salmon” and “Walmart should be WILD about sustainable ALASKA SALMON,” the protesters received honks from passing motorists in south Anchorage.
The protest came a day before Alaska state and seafood industry officials were to meet with executives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
In 2011, the world’s largest retailer decided to only buy seafood that was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, a London-based organization; fish in a fishery improvement program; or any equivalent certification program, of which there currently are none, said Chris Schraeder, a Wal-Mart spokesman.
A number of large Alaska processors have dropped the MSC program because of costs and burdensome paperwork, said Greg Gabriel, executive director of the Northwest and Alaska Seiners Association of Kenai, Alaska.
“We would like Wal-Mart to recognize that there are other certifications out there, and the state of Alaska is a leader in sustainability, always has been, always will be,” Gabriel said.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell protested the move in a letter this summer to Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke.
“Alaska has been in the business of sustainability long before the MSC’s existence, managing salmon fisheries to high standards since statehood,” he wrote.