Sunrise on the Fairweather Mountain peaks over the Margerie Glacier - Photo by NPSPark Service sustainable seafood policy questioned: Seemingly following in the footsteps of Wal-Mart, the National Park Service recently announced its phase out of seafood used by park concessionaires not certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as being part of a sustainable fishery. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell released news of this seafood policy on June 5, 2013.

In a press release, Jewell says, “Our national parks are renowned around the world for their breathtaking landscapes and important cultural and historical sites. Today, as part of the administration’s efforts to promote healthier choices, we are adding yet another reason to visit our national parks and increasing the number of healthy food options available to visitors at parks from coast to coast.”

On its face, the initiative titled NPS Healthy Food Choice Standards and Sustainable Food Choice Guidelines for Front Country Operations is well intended. At issue for Alaskans is the notion that recommendations from the Marine Stewardship Council would trump Alaska’s world leadership in sustainable fisheries management.

The NPS standards define sustainable fisheries as, “Where seafood options are offered, provide only those that are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list, certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, or identified by an equivalent program that has been approved by the NPS.”

Alaska’s Constitution requires fisheries to be managed in a sustainable manner. Nationally, the Magnuson Stevens Act requires the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ensure fishing in Alaska is sustainable.

Concerned with this new policy, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski wrote the National Park Service saying, “I am dismayed that several executive branch agencies appear to have ignored federal and state fisheries management expertise as they developed sustainable seafood guidelines. I have asked the Secretary of HHS, GSA Administrator and Director of the NPS to meet with me to explain how this policy was developed, and to discuss how to ensure that federal policy on sustainability clearly recognizes seafood produced in Alaska.”

One other interesting quirk in the Park Service policy is the statement, “National Park Service is encouraging concessioners to incorporate sustainable food sourcing and service practices. The use of locally grown or raised items, when available, provides fresh food, reduces environmental impacts, and supports regional economies.”

It would seem the use of sustainable, wild caught Alaska seafood would be the ultimate in locally grown food sourcing.

Copyright © 2013 by Alan Sorum

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