Costco Makes Big Move Toward Sustainable Seafood

You may have seen Casson Trenor's story last month on AlterNet about four places to never buy seafood from. Topping that list was Costco, as Trenor wrote:

Costco is the largest retail-sector purchaser of seafood in North America. The discount giant turns a tremendous amount of profit on the bounty of oceans by compromising on prices in the name of gargantuan volume. Unfortunately, this market strategy can lead to massive environmental fallout.

Numerous environmental groups, such as the Mangrove Action Project and a number of Canadian anti-salmon farming organizations, have spoken out against Costco's seafood operation in recent years. Greenpeace, too, has been campaigning on this issue since June 2010, highlighting the company's lack of a comprehensive sustainable seafood policy and willingness to sell unsustainable products as long as they are certified by a "reputable" body (Costco has conveniently left this adjective undefined).

Well, it looks like years of pressure is paying off. Greenpeace just announced that Costco has a new policy for sustainabe seafood that affects a "vast majority of the chain's seafood inventory and means the retailer will discontinue sales of twelve kinds of fish associated with severe environmental concerns, including shark, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, and Atlantic halibut." And they "also pledged to pursue aquaculture certification standards that support best practices, as farmed salmon and farmed shrimp are two of its largest volume items."

Because of Costco's huge size, this is a really big win for our fisheries and ocean health. The company is still far from perfect, but this latest step in the right direction should be applauded. One thing to keep an eye on is that they will sell some questionable species if they are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which is the most recogonized name in the sustainable seafood biz, but not without its flaws, either.

"We recognize that Costco is moving in the right direction," said Trenor. "That said, Greenpeace shares the concerns some scientists and environmental groups have voiced about the MSC and its standards. Hopefully a progressive company like Costco will use its significant purchasing power to push the MSC to continue to improve and become the gold standard that we all hope it will be."

You can read more of Costco's policy here.

AlterNet / By Tara Lohan

Posted at February 25, 2011, 8:17am

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