Greenpeace speaks up to protect the oceans at the Metro annual meeting

Feature story - January 28, 2009
Metro's annual general meeting had an unexpected guest this week when Greenpeace oceans coordinator, Beth Hunter, showed up to draw attention to their weak efforts on seafood sustainability.

Éric R. La Flèche, Metro's President and Chief Executive Officer during the Annual meeting on January 27, 2009 in Montreal.

Metro-recently consolidated under its company name from banners such as Dominion and Loeb in Quebec and Ontario - focused its AGM on financial results. Only small references were made to environmental initiatives. Ocean protection and seafood were left out of the equation - cue Greenpeace.

Tough question:

During question period, Beth Hunter asked: "As other Canadian and international supermarkets begin to develop seafood purchasing policies, remove Greenpeace's Redlist species from their shelves and offer greener seafood options, is Metro committed to taking action and putting a sustainable seafood policy in place?"

Tired lines from Metro:

CEO Eric La Flèche stuck to tired lines that the company complies with federal government requirements and takes advice from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the grocery industry association on seafood matters.

But the government and industry groups cited by La Flèche are moving at a snail's pace to address the grave problems facing our oceans.

Evaluation of Metro:

Metro is one of eight supermarket chains whose seafood purchasing behaviour was evaluated and presented in the report Out of Stock: Supermarkets and the Future of Seafood, released by Greenpeace in June 2008. The chapter in the report dedicated to Metro was entitled Turning a Blind Eye-a label that appears to be holding true.

The Greenpeace report showed that Metro had no seafood purchasing policy in place, was selling many of the species on our Redlist and was not doing a very good job of informing its consumers on the origin and catch or farming method of the products being sold. Greenpeace's Redlist consists of species sourced from harmful fishing and farming practices.

Update at the Metro AGM:

In response to Greenpeace's pressure, La Flèche said that labelling initiatives were underway but would not address the other matters.

A small step:

Identifying origin of fish through proper labelling is important. If Metro sticks to its word, that one action is to be commended. Supermarkets need to go further by labelling fishing and farming methods.  That way, shoppers can avoid destructively fished or farmed species and make greener choices.

More needed:

Metro needs to open its eyes to the current and urgent plight of our marine life. It must ensure that all seafood sold in its stores is from sustainable and equitable sources.