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ASMI making progress with transition of RFM certification program

Bylaws for the new nonprofit have been approved, and a shared chain-of-custody program is being developed with Iceland.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) is progressing on its plan to offload its Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) sustainable seafood certification program to an independent entity.

The marketing group is developing a nonprofit foundation that is expected to take over operation of the program in 2021, Jeff Regnart, a contractor hired by ASMI to manage the RFM program and facilitate its transition to the nonprofit, told IntraFish.

The bylaws for the nonprofit have been approved. The next step, Regnart said, is developing the nine-member board that will oversee the RFM program going forward. Following this, a business plan, which details how the new program will be funded, will be created.

Operating the program is currently costing ASMI about $800,000 (€713,000). In past years, costs were closer to $1 million (€891,360), but through some belt tightening ASMI has been able to trim expenses, Regnart said.

The makeup of the board will likely include a mix of industry and NGOs, he said. “We just want it to be balanced.”

Several weeks ago, ASMI signed a MOU with the operators of the Iceland Responsible Fisheries (IRF) program, a similar sustainability certification program based on United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) responsible fisheries and eco-labeling guidelines.

The MOU allows the groups to develop a shared chain-of-custody program, which should help streamline use of both countries’ programs. Regnart said the groups’ chain-of-custody requirements are very close and will be blended into a single set of rules.

In March 2017, the ASMI board reaffirmed a decision made at its meeting in October 2016 to explore spinning off the RFM program.

ASMI says a geographically broader program will deliver increased market strength by providing a broader and more complete range of products, while increased industry representation will ensure stability and credibility of the RFM effort. The program will move to the new foundation with continued ASMI participation.

RFM was the first certification scheme to be recognized by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) in July 2016 and it is not anticipated that the new governance will jeopardize this.

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