Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Local foodies fuel Northwest albacore sales

Ecotrope | Oct. 10, 2011 11 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:34 p.m.

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Northwest albacore tuna is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, and they've been a hot number this year, as more Northwest consumers seek out local fish.

Northwest albacore tuna is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, and they've been a hot number this year, as more Northwest consumers seek out local fish.

I couldn’t wait until Foodie Friday to share this nugget: Sales of Northwest albacore tuna are up this year – thanks to local foodies and a marketing push from Whole Foods.

Despite a slow start to the summer fishing season, demand for albacore tuna was up in the Northwest.

Whole Foods hosted some marketing events – including truck sales where customers could buy a whole fish and have it filleted for them on site – and the fish were flying out the (truck) door.

“People can’t seem to get enough of this seasonal tuna in the Northwest,” says Whole Foods Regional Seafood Coordinator, Mark Curran. “They love being able to pick out a whole fish and then have someone else do all the dirty work!”

A sign from the Whole Foods "truck sale" of albacore tuna in Tigard earlier this year.

A sign from the Whole Foods “truck sale” of albacore tuna in Tigard earlier this year.

Wayne Heikkila, director of the Western Fishboat Owners Association – a marketing group of 400 tuna boats – has seen “an uptick in the number of shoppers actively seeking out local fish.”

The group got its albacore certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council last year.

One of the big questions with the certification process is whether the money invested by fishermen will pay off in more sales and higher prices, or if it’s really just a way to maintain market share as more grocers, fish markets and consumers opt for MSC-certified fish.

So far, that part looks like it’s paying off for the Western Fishboat Owners. There is another persistent question of whether the certification actually ensures sustainable fishing practices, or if it is just a marketing tool for the industry. From The Guardian:

Chris Pincetich, a marine biologist with the Turtle Island Restoration Network, said: “The MSC has rushed to accept applications from hundreds of fisheries around the globe in order to grow their business and network. Many of those are actually viewed by scientists as unsustainable. They should really take a closer look before they even engage with those fisheries.”

In response, James Simpson, of the MSC, said all fishery assessments are “scientifically robust” and designed to put more protection in place than would otherwise be found:

“For some of our critics, the MSC test of sustainability is not high enough,” he said, but “behind the controversies there is evidence of real environmental benefits occurring – many of them driven by fisheries’ desire to attain and keep their MSC certificates.”

 

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