Talking salmon and taking on the country's biggest retailer, Alaska's fishermen want Walmart to change its certification stance on selling salmon from Alaska waters.
The Dimond Center Walmart is a long way from Bristol Bay, Cordova, or the Prince William Sound, but that didn't stop fishermen and their families from protesting the retail giant, arguing it allow all Alaska fish to be stocked on its shelves.
Even though there were few words spoken by these Alaska fishermen, their message was heard loud and clear.
"We need our fish sold and bought here in Walmart, every market in Alaska," said Lucia Fleming, whose family commercial fishes in Prince William Sound.
The sentiment is far from hollow for the men and women out here; they believe it’s their livelihood at stake. John Renner has been fishing for 47 years and counting. He says without commercial fishing many like he and his family would not survive.
"I'm a second generation fisherman, and my son is a third generation," Renner said. "We are coming off a bumper crop this year -- a bumper harvest -- and if we don't sell this stuff we are going to be in trouble."
The problem for folks like Renner centers upon Walmart's current policy: It requires a certification from the Marine Stewardship Council that promotes sustainable fish.
Alaska industry groups use a different standard that was established by the United Nations.
Renner explained that means there's not a lot of Alaskan fish on Walmarts shelves.
"They are selling a small amount of product for one processor, but there are 10, 15 more that they are not selling product for," Renner said. "That's the problem, we want to see our product back in their store."
Walmart officials have noted when it comes to fishing sustainability, nothing has changed. Company officials note they carry Alaska fish in their stores.
In a written statement Walmart officals noted, "We continue to source salmon from Alaska and have not changed our policies or practices around how we source seafood.”
But for those who catch their seafood here in Alaska, they say their standards and their fish are exactly the same.
"We have a culture of sustainability and Walmart executives need to know what the reality is," said Chip Treinen, who fishes in Bristol Bay.
Which is why these fishermen hope the decision to sell all Alaska's fish is a no brainer.
"Just accept accreditation from another agency that does the same exact thing as the Marine Stewardship Council," Renner said, speaking to Walkmart’s position. "That's what we’re asking. Allow us access back into the retail market."
Officials from the State of Alaska as well as members of the seafood industry will meet with the company at Walmart headquarters in Arkansas to talk about certification standards on Thursday.
Contact Corey Allen-Young