THE ongoing dispute between Alaskan salmon fishermen and the US retail giant is moving into the political arena.
Last month more than 40 fishermen protested outside Wal-Mart's store in Anchorage over the company fish buying policy. They held up placards calling on the retailer to "Buy American".
Walmart has said it will only buy Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish, but the Alaskan fishermen have withdrawn from MSC because they say it is too bureaucratic and expensive, adding that there are other equally valid certifications to which they belong.
Now they are hoping that planned U.S. Senate Hearings into Walmart's practice of freezing Alaskan salmon will force the company explain their sustainability policies which they claim may leave millions of Americans without access to what they describe as "the world's gold standard of sustainable seafood".
A large group of Alaska fishermen and their families have led the charge for a Capitol Hill inquiry, into practices that could result in Russian seafood on American plates. The calls to the U.S. Senate from "Alaska Salmon Now", a grassroots collection of fishermen, consumers, and other representatives of the Alaska seafood industry, recently came in front of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard on third-party sustainability certification of U.S. seafood and its impact on the seafood options in grocery stores and restaurants.
John Renner, Vice President, Cordova District Fisherman United said: "."It is unacceptable for Walmart to continue to deny Americans the right to choose sustainable Alsaka salmon. This affects real American workers and consumers, and we are taking this issue very seriously. If Walmart doesn't do what's right, we hope our representatives in Washington are willing to stand up and hold them accountable."
As a result of Walmart's policy, the fishermen claim countless jobs in Alaska's $16-billion seafood industry may be at risk, and millions of Americans may lose access to Alaksa salmon.
Worldwide Alaska has consistently been recognized for its sustainable management success. Since its inception, MSC had consistently recognized the excellence and effectiveness of Alaska's fisheries management system, ranking it above programs in British Columbia and Russia and saying as recently as 2012 that "the Alaska salmon fishery has been a long-standing model of sustainable fishery management."
Walmart announced its intention to buy only MSC salmon back in July and a response from the company on the latest development may be issued shortly.
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