Murkowski Seafood Sustainability Fight Gets Federal Flip-Flop

Senator’s Months of Pressure, Legislative Efforts Reap Government Revisions

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski today welcomed news from the General Services Administration (GSA) that they have completed an internal review of their flawed federal fish certification process allowing third party eco-endorsements to dictate what the government considers ‘sustainable” seafood – despite federal guidelines prohibiting such an outsized role.  Its changes to policy can be read in the GSA’s new ‘Health and Sustainability Guidelines’ posted online hours ago.

Murkowski initially urged them to reconsider this new practice in July, followed that up with a tense Senate committee hearing days later where she was able to have the National Park Service reverse course and then just last week introduced legislation to prohibit any federal agencies from ignoring their own internal rules and using third party non-governmental certification schemes when considering or labeling any domestic catch as ‘sustainable.’

“I appreciate the GSA reviewing its policy allowing 3rd party certifiers to have an undue influence on federal decision-making by determining what seafood is allowed to be procured by federal agencies for our National Parks nationwide, troops overseas, or our own school children,” said Murkowski.  “Not too long ago, wild Alaska salmon served as the flagship species for sustainability around the world. Now some NGO are disparaging the “sustainability” of Alaska salmon, all the while having political agendas, lacking transparency, and using their certification schemes to inappropriately influence federal and state fisheries management. I look forward to seeing the National Park Service work to make similar adjustments to their internal policies.”

In the newly-revised General Services Administration “Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations,” the sustainability footnotes (on page nine) clearly indicate a change of policy from months ago:

44. Examples of “Best Choices” do not imply government endorsement of these standards. Only endorsements made directly by governing agencies (e.g., USDA, FDA) should be considered government endorsements.

44.*  The NOAA FishWatch Program defines sustainable seafood as “catching or farming seafood responsibly, with consideration for the long-term health of the environment and the livelihoods of the people that depend upon the environment.” Verifying the health and sustainability of U.S. and international fisheries is not always simple. Domestic fisheries are managed by State and Federal agencies under legally established fisheries management plans. International fisheries are managed under sovereign laws and international treaties. Guidance on how to make sustainable seafood choices is found on the NOAA FishWatch site at: www.fishwatch.gov/buying_seafood/choosing_sustainable.htm.