UCCS has been feeding its students local foods for a while now, from Red Bird chicken to bread from Denver's Harvest Moon bakery. Even the beer and wine at Clyde's comes from Colorado. Things they can't do locally, they get as good as they can, like Rainforest certified coffee. Now, they're adding one more item to their list of sustainably sourced eats: seafood. Earlier this week, we received a press release from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), announcing that UCCS had recently been certified as committed to serving sustainable seafood.
That's great, except MSC has caught some flak from various scientific groups over perceived laxness in their certification process. A 2013 NPR three-article series featured concerns from the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory over the certification of a local swordfish fishing operation. The report says that there's a fundamental conflict of interest in their business model, due to the fact that MSC charges a licensing fee to use its certification label. At the time, NPR claimed half of MSC's revenue came from said fees. Retailers are incentivized to cash in because, by NPR's estimates, they can crank up the price on MSC-certified seafood by around 10 percent.
The ensuing back and forth between MSC and NPR can be uncharitably summarized as "you didn't do your homework," and "yes we did," respectively. There was nothing definitive, so it's hard to say if MSC is on the level or just fishing for greenbacks. For those interested in reading the full story, here's NPR's original article series, here's MSC's response in pdf format, and here's NPR's response to MSC's response.
No surprise, Mark Hayes, director of Dining and Hospitality Services for UCCS, was already familiar with the criticism levied against MSC before seeking their certification.
"While MSC certification has not been without controversy, we believe third party verification of our processes and that of worldwide fisheries is robust," he says via e-mail. "The UN estimates that over 80% of global fish stocks are overfished. The MSC is heading us in the right direction, along with other like-minded organizations. Seafood Watch also lists MSC as the only organization recommended for wild caught seafood eco-certification."
Of note, he says that MSC does not charge universities for campus certification, and Hayes says any cost increases will be "minimal and within the planned budget for our campus residential food expenses."
In any case, Hayes' and UCCS's intent — more responsible and sustainable food sourcing on campus — is something we're happy to see.
Read the full press release below:
COLORADO SPRINGS – University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) students can now enjoy seafood at The Lodge and Roaring Fork dining centers knowing that their choices support fishermen and fisherwomen who are working hard to meet the world’s most rigorous standard for sustainable fishing.
In September, UCCS became the first university in Colorado, and one of 31 institutions of higher education in North America, to lead the way in committing to serving Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified seafood in its dining centers.
“The vision of UCCS Dining and Hospitality Services is to be a recognized leader in service delivery and food sustainability,” said Polly Moorman, Marketing Manager, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. “The MSC third-party certification recognizes our commitment to sustainability and brings a level of confidence to our students.”
The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organization, established to safeguard seafood supplies for the future. Recognized as the world’s leading certification program for sustainable, wild-caught seafood, the MSC works with leaders within the fishing industry and seafood sector to create a more sustainable seafood market.
All MSC certified seafood is labeled, letting students know that what they are eating is sustainably caught. The MSC ecolabel on a seafood product means that it is sourced from a sustainable and well-managed fishery and is traceable from ocean to plate. Close to 10 percent of the annual global harvest of wild-capture fisheries are MSC certified.
“We congratulate the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs on attaining MSC certification and serving sustainable seafood to students, staff and faculty on campus,” said Brian Perkins, MSC regional director, Americas. “As the first university in Colorado to earn MSC certification, UCCS is leading the way in contributing to the health of the world’s oceans for future generations.”
The MSC certification is just one of several initiatives led by UCCS Dining and Hospitality Services to increase sustainability. UCCS Dining and Hospitality Services is committed to making well-thought out, strategic choices in purchasing and operational decision-making with the goal of not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, which include: Organic, Rainforest certified coffee roasted in Denver, along with single origin Kenyan Coffee from the Harambee Foundation; Antibiotic-free chicken and beef from Red Bird, Coleman, Ranch Foods Direct, and Frontier Valley Meats; the new Roaring Fork Dining Hall will be certified LEED Gold; and perishable food is donated to the Colorado Springs Food Rescue.