Spreading Sustainable Seafood Practices Overseas
By Mary Ellen Smith, Agricultural Counselor, Foreign Agricultural Service, The Hague, Netherlands
Last month, the Foreign Agricultural Service office in The Hague, Netherlands, partnered with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to highlight the institute’s commitment to sustainable fishing and introduce its new sustainability certification.
There is a growing interest among European consumers in sustainable seafood. Many European retailers require their suppliers to demonstrate that their products don’t deplete ocean fisheries.
On June 11, about 40 leading Dutch seafood industry and government representatives attended a seminar to learn about Alaskan seafood industry practices, including a new certification process. The new process is based on a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization model that is less expensive compared to others and meets the highest UN benchmarks for credible certification.
Currently, many European retailers require a different sustainability certification that is widely accepted throughout Europe. However, Dutch retailers are open to other certifications that are equivalent or better than existing methods. Since the Netherlands is the gateway to Europe for U.S. seafood exports, this could help keep Alaskan seafood on retail shelves in Europe and prevent retailers from sourcing seafood from other places.
The Netherlands is the sixth largest market for U.S. seafood products, purchasing more than $180 million in 2012. Alaska is responsible for roughly half of total U.S. seafood exports to the Netherlands. A popular Alaskan seafood export to the region is frozen fillets of Alaska Pollock, which is used in the Netherlands to make a local delicacy called “kibbeling.” Other top exports include salmon, cod, black cod and halibut.
ASMI, a USDA industry partner, received funding for the seminar through the Market Access Program. The event is just one example of how FAS helps farmers, ranchers and fishermen build and maintain commercial markets for U.S. food and agricultural products around the world.