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February 06. 2014 7:31PM

Portsmouth seafood firm hits 99% of 'sustainable' source goal


Keith A. Decker, president and chief operating officer of High Liner Foods in Portsmouth, with some of the High Liner products consumers might see on the grocery store shelf. The company says it has achieved 99 percent of its goal to source its seafood from “certified sustainable or responsible” fisheries and aquaculture. (/UNION LEADER FILE)

High Liner Foods Inc., which has a major plant in Portsmouth, announced Thursday it has achieved 99 percent of its goal to source its seafood from “certified sustainable or responsible” fisheries and aquaculture.

The sustainability goal-setting began in 2010, as the company considered consumer interests and worked with commercial fishermen, scientists and non-governmental organizations to support improvement projects.

“We are a customer-focused and customer-centric organization,” High Liner Foods President Keith Decker said in a phone interview. “We felt it was important for us to take a stand from a corporate perspective and from an industry perspective.”

It is important for natural resources as well, something close to the heart of a company that traces its roots to 1899. Today, High Liner Foods is North America’s largest prepared frozen seafood company. There are 270 employees at its Portsmouth facility.

Its headquarters is in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and it is a publicly traded Canadian company, under the “HLF” symbol on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

High Liner Foods’ sustainability benchmarks, via its announcement, included:

• Achieved 100 percent of its goal for Atlantic cod, haddock, pollock, sole/flounder, Pacific cod and Pacific salmon.

• Achieved 98 percent of its commitment to tilapia and 91 percent for shrimp. Combined, those species totaled 196 million pounds of product purchased in 2013.

• Various squid, ocean perch and small wild shrimp are among the species that do not currently meet the company’s sustainability criteria.

The company said it remains committed that 100 percent of wild-caught or farmed fish products will come from certified sources. Fisheries or farms that are not certified as sustainable must be on a clear path toward certification, and High Liner Foods will work with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, to reach that sustainability goal, the company said.

Other partners in this effort include the Marine Stewardship Council, which promotes best practices and “seafood traceability,” as well as outreach and consumer education.

High Liner Foods effort included its director of sustainability to work across the company to identify and track materials. It includes focus on packaging, energy efficiency, carbon footprint and social responsibility.

Sustainability is a focus of seafood companies in recent years as businesses and fishermen work to ensure the resource, as well as their livelihood, is around for future generations. U.S. fisheries are managed by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, which uses regulatory frameworks to assess, conserve and protect fish stocks.

On the web: Highlinersustainability.com.



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