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The Results Are In: How Sustainable Is the Seafood Sold at Major U.S. Supermarkets?

Greenpeace just released their Carting Away the Oceans report and Target has topped the list of the most sustainable retailer. See who's trailing them and who's missed the boat.

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Trader Joe's -a perennial poor performer in the Carting Away the Oceans rankings - has leaped ahead with a commitment to its customers and to the oceans. Trader Joe's has discontinued orange roughy and red snapper, has begun the process of developing a sustainable seafood policy, and has pledged to redesign their labeling in a more transparent and informative manner. Beyond this, the company has called out the need for marine reserves in fishery management and has promised to use its purchasing dollars to support visionary leadership in industry (such as closed-containment salmon). Their work has only just begun, but it's nice to know that this company, which was once an incorrigible laggard in these areas, in now in the process of becoming a true leader.

Despite the actions of these progressive companies, however, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that there is still a cadre of laggards willfully ignoring the role that they are playing in our ocean's worsening crisis.
Companies like H.E. Butt, Meijer, and Costco have demonstrated absolutely zero interest in these critical issues. Even after nearly three years of entreaty by Greenpeace, these companies have not even deigned to respond to inquiries. This in itself is not the real issue, however; other companies, such as Aldi, continue to work under Greenpeace's radar but have made measureable progress. The true problem is that these three offenders have done nothing to even acknowledge - let alone to mitigate - the damage that their business operations are doing to the environment.

Publix, SUPERVALU, and Giant Eagle are certainly no stars in this contest - both companies continue to refuse any sort of public acknowledgement of their need to address seafood sustainability - but at least they have begun to address the issue through closed partnerships with other NGOs. Publix is now working with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and the Ocean Conservancy, while SUPERVALU and Giant Eagle have entered into partnerships with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Virtually no information has yet been made available to outside parties as to the nature or timeline of these arrangements, however, which exasperates many concerned customers and environmental advocates alike.

Greenpeace calls upon all seafood retailers to enact strong, effective, sustainable seafood policies that will reduce pressure on flagging fish stocks and help heal our ailing oceans. Retailers must also use their massive buying power to leverage positive change in our oceans and to support governmental initiatives that will create marine protected areas (MPAs) and other measures integral to a sensible, ecosystem-based fisheries management approach. Lastly, responsible retailers should demonstrate their commitment to this process by removing key red list species from their inventories immediately. If we are to save our oceans from destruction by over-exploitation, we cannot continue to sell unsustainable species like shark, orange roughy, and hoki. There is a better way to sell seafood, and it is time for progressive retailers to take the reins and lead the industry away from the negligent practices that have brought us to the brink of catastrophe.

Consumers deserve to be able to purchase seafood from retailers that care about the condition of our oceans and that properly steward our marine resources. The days of selling fish with no regard for the environment are over. Companies have two choices-they can implement strong seafood policies and become leaders, or they can ignore reality and continue their unsustainable seafood practices until many popular seafood items are no longer available. And increasingly, if they choose the latter course, they will reap the wrath of a consumer public that has simply had enough.

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