Canadian supermarkets move one step closer to ocean protection: Greenpeace

Feature story - June 2, 2010
(Montreal and Vancouver) — Canada’s major supermarket chains have begun to rid their shelves of Redlist species and adopt sustainable seafood procurement policies, but need to do much more to help protect the oceans, according to a new Greenpeace report.

The report, Taking Stock: Ranking supermarkets on seafood sustainability, ranks Canada’s eight major grocery chains on their efforts to help improve the sustainability of the seafood they buy and sell. This second Greenpeace ranking report shows that following pressure by environmental organizations and the public, retailers are examining their seafood supply chains, stopping the sale of certain Redlist species and adopting sustainability policies, although these policies generally remain statements of good intentions. All of the major chains (Overwaitea, Loblaw, Safeway, Walmart, Metro, Sobeys, Federated Co-operatives and Costco) continue to sell some of the 15 species on Greenpeace’s Redlist of destructively fished or farmed seafood. These species include dredged Atlantic sea scallops and salmon from farms that contaminate the marine environment along our coasts.

Take action

  • Click here to see if your grocery store is selling Redlist species.
  • Find out how your supermarket ranked here.
  • You can urge your supermarket to stop the sale of Redlist seafood and develop a sustainable seafood policy by sending a letter or making a call. Store addresses and ideas of what to write can be found here.

“Supermarkets have stopped selling imperiled species such as shark, skates and bluefin tuna, which are not big sellers,” said Beth Hunter, oceans campaign coordinator. “Now retailers need to focus on no longer selling fish that may be consumer favourites, but are still destructively fished or farmed.”

Greenpeace released the report this morning at a news conference in Montreal, where platters of “seafood” illustrated the past abundance, current declines and future uncertainty of world fisheries. In Vancouver, Greenpeace activists costumed as some of the Redlist species still sold by all of the ranked retailers — yellowfin tuna, Atlantic cod, Atlantic sea scallop and farmed Atlantic salmon — will be visiting busy areas of the city to announce the ranking and speak with the public about the report.

“Retailers need to make sure the action in stores reflects the crisis in our oceans,” said Sarah King, Greenpeace oceans campaigner. “Most stocks of Atlantic cod are facing extinction in Canada because of overfishing and weak government regulation, and chains that continue to sell it should realize that it taints their green messaging red.”

From first place to last, the chains received the following grades: Overwaitea 51 per cent (nine per cent in 2009); Loblaw 41 per cent (24 per cent in 2009); Safeway 36 per cent (three per cent in 2009); Walmart 28 per cent (10 per cent in 2009); Metro 21 per cent (one per cent in 2009); Sobeys 14 per cent (11 per cent in 2009); Federated Co-Operatives 12 per cent (nine per cent in 2009); and Costco seven per cent (seven per cent in 2009).

Costco received the lowest ranking this year because it has not indicated any plans to discontinue to the sale of unsustainable fish or develop a seafood policy. Overwaitea received the highest overall score — and the only passing grade — because it removed Redlist species from sale, started implementing its seafood policy and is actively promoting sustainable seafood initiatives to customers and suppliers. No retailer has yet adequately addressed labelling where and how the fish was caught or farmed, although Overwaitea has taken the initiative to provide this information at the seafood counter for much of the seafood sold.