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MSC takes industry's side in dispute over controversial IUU report

Walton foundation, which funded the report, is reaching out to study's authors.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is joining industry leaders in criticizing a scientific paper in the journal Marine Policy that alleges a significant percentage of Alaska salmon, crab and pollock entering the Japanese market comes from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries.

"The Alaskan pollock and Alaskan salmon fisheries are certified to both the MSC fisheries and Chain of Custody standards -- rigorous, science-based standards -- and as such it is incomprehensible to imagine any of the allegations in the 'Estimates of illegal and unreported seafood imports to Japan' article have any bearing," Brian Perkins of the MSC, told IntraFish.

US official, pollock harvesters condemn IUU report

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The paper offers estimates of the amount of IUU-origin seafood entering the Japanese market, one of the most lucrative in the world. The authors argue for a traceability program to address the issue.

The study claims that an estimated 15 percent of the US pollock entering Japan is from IUU fisheries. Further, the study says between 10 percent and 20 percent of the salmon and crab coming from Alaska fisheries is IUU.

Earlier this month, Chris Oliver, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, condemned the report and called for its retraction.

Oliver in his letter said the "allegations made in the paper, absent any transparency regarding the data and assumptions supporting them, are irresponsible and call into questions the authors' conclusions."

The At-sea Processors Association (APA), which represents US pollock catchers, joined Oliver in condemning the report.

In a letter to Tony Pitcher, one of the author's of the report, APA's Jim Gilmore detailed the many layers of regulation, traceability and sustainable seafood certifications governing the US pollock fishery.

Oliver, too, defended Alaska's fisheries, which are considered some of the best managed in the world.

"Jim Gilmore from the APA did a great job citing relevant chapter and verse of the standard, and Chris Oliver from NOAA has responded in a clear and unequivocal manner. I am in complete agreement with both Chris and Jim," said the MSC's Perkins.

The Walton Family Foundation (WFF), which funded the study, was less strident in its criticism of the report.

The foundation is reaching out to talk with all of the parties to ensure it fully understands the issues, the group told IntraFish.

"At the Walton Family Foundation, we believe in sound science as a basis for decision-making," said Barry Gold, director of WFF's Environment Program.

"While we do not have a direct role or editorial control over scientific studies, we do see peer-review as a key element of quality control. The peer-review process is working now, with At-sea Processors Association and NOAA voicing their concerns, and the authors providing a response. The next step will be for the journal editor to decide what is required,"he said.

As of Tuesday, the study's authors nor the Marine Policy journal had issued a retraction of the paper.

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