Just over a month after sending an open letter criticizing Alaska's Senators, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Association and Alaska-based critics, who she said were acting on misinformation, Kerry Coughlin, the America's Director of the Marine Stewardship Council resigned from her position it was announced on Friday.
Coughlin issued her lengthy letter speaking out against Alaska critics accusing them of bias after her exclusion from a hearing by Alaska’s Senators that discussed the need of third-party certification programs in the Alaska fisheries. During that time, after the National Park Service pointed to their guidelines calling for fish that they purchase to be certified by MSC, Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced legislation prohibiting government agencies from requiring seafood to be certified by any third party.
The controversy began when the Alaska Seafood Marketing Association parted ways with MSC last year and set out to put in place its own certification process, leaving only the Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association with MSC.
Even more recent, is the objection filed by the Wild Fish Conservancy, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Skeena Wild Conservation Trust, and Raincoast Conservation Foundation over MSC’s proposed re-certification of Alaskan salmon fisheries that they say is overfishing King, Chum and Sockeye salmon bound for other states and Canada.
The King Salmon fishery in Southeast Alaska is of the main concern of the outside groups, saying 96% of the Kings caught in the waters of southeast are in fact Kings bound for other west coast states and Canada. “The Southeast Alaskan Chinook fishery is actually a fishery for non-Alaskan fish, and it harvests those fish at levels far surpassing what fisheries scientists consider a maximum sustainable yield”, said Aaron Hill of Watershed Watch Salmon Society.
Coughlin, who said she will continue on with MSC on a consulting basis, passed on comments after her resignation, saying, “It has been a privilege to work with MSC and our many partners,” Coughlin said. “The MSC program has experienced tremendous growth during my tenure and I expect will continue to expand in importance as a vital global link for members of the industry and marine conservation community seeking to ensure sustainability of the world’s seafood resources.” Coughlin has not released to the public her reasons for resigning.
CEO of MSC issued a statement concerning Coughlin’s resignation, saying, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kerry for six years of dedicated service to the MSC and for her significant contribution over that period. She has done an outstanding job. We appreciate that Kerry will continue to work with MSC’s Board, myself and senior managers to facilitate a smooth transition as we move forward to recruit a new Regional Director for the Americas.”
Upon hearing the news of Coughlin’s resignation, Alaska’s Senator Murkowski released the following, “These have been a rough couple of years of dealing with MSC from an Alaskan perspective. I can only hope that new leadership may bring a more reasoned approach and added scientific rigor to their work. This is an organization that began its work in Alaska as a valued partner, but more recently has taken on a confrontational and adversarial attitude toward the same fisheries that helped it get its start.”