March 18, 2021
GAPP Applauds USDA’s National Organic Program for Renewing Consideration of the Application of Organic Standards to Wild-Capture Fisheries
SEATTLE, Wash.—The National Organic Program would be strengthened considerably if a decision is made to advance standards that can apply to wild-caught seafood, the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) announced today. During a listening session hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) leadership, GAPP joined leaders from sister trade associations the Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA), National Fisheries Institute (NFI), the At-Sea Processors Association (APA) and the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) in commending the NOP for exploring opportunities to expand the program to include wild-caught seafood.
“Americans rely on and trust the USDA Organic seal. Its complete absence from the seafood sector is an enormous, missed opportunity and one that we welcome the opportunity to work with the National Organic Program to rectify,” said Craig Morris, GAPP CEO. “Quite simply, there is no more ‘organic’ product than wild-caught seafood responsibly harvested from the pristine waters of Alaska.”
Leading U.S. policymakers have long recognized that the absence of U.S. organic standards in the seafood sector has the potential to confuse buyers, distort markets, and exacerbate dietary choices that fall short of expert recommendations relating to seafood consumption. Specifically, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has repeatedly encouraged the NOP to grapple with the complex questions relating to organic standards for wild-capture fisheries—through legislation she championed as early as 2003, and most recently in FY21 appropriations report language.
While the participating organizations recognized and acknowledge that the considerations and potential trade-offs are complex, all represented a consistent belief that the commonalities between Alaskan, wild-caught seafood like Wild Alaska Pollock, and the NOP are many, specifically around high-standards for harvest, commitment to sustainability, and proven nutritional benefits. Specifically, the collective comments noted that the Alaska region leads the world in its science-based conservation of marine resources and fishery management practices.
The joint Alaska seafood industry association comments also addressed the current systematic failure that prohibits Alaska fisheries—which produce significant amounts of fishmeal and oil each year that can be used in animal feed—from participating in the NOP which, as a result, forces organic U.S. organic producers to instead import feed ingredients from international markets, while Alaskan fishmeal and oil is largely exported each year.
The comments also focused on the continued need for clear marketing standards to eliminate on-going consumer confusion, recognizing that much trust exists in the current USDA Organic seal—but yet that seal is not found in the Alaskan seafood industry, or the seafood case for that matter.
“We believe that the values underpinning Alaska seafood—and the messages we have long sought to convey to consumers—are strongly aligned with organic producers and the NOP,” said Morris. “We also believe that specific features of Alaska seafood, harvested from the pristine waters of Alaska, overwhelmingly share the core characteristics of organic food produced in accordance with existing USDA standards.”
GAPP will continue to work with the four other allied industry associations to continue discussions with USDA and others on this important issue. Read the full comments here.