Greenpeace Canada’s latest report ranking Canada’s big retailers on seafood sustainability urges the retail giants to take the next step and support the creation of ocean sanctuaries.

A poll included in this years’ report showed a majority of Canadians’ want marine reserves.

"Canada's big supermarket chains are making progress on their sustainable seafood commitments, but they can play a bigger role in protecting our oceans," says Sarah King, Greenpeace Canada oceans campaign coordinator. "Some retailers have expressed support for broader conservation initiatives, but none of them have fully acted on it. A good place to start is a strong commitment not to source from proposed or existing ocean sanctuaries."

The 2014 report, entitled Protecting Our Oceans is Everyone’s Business: Ranking Supermarkets on Seafood Sustainability finds Canada Safeway, acquired by Sobeys in 2013, at the top of the ranking with a green rating. The company is transitioning to sustainable options on big sellers like canned tuna and net-pen farmed salmon. Further, it also committed not to source from the proposed high seas ocean sanctuaries in the Western and Central Pacific ocean – where most tuna is caught, and to avoid fish caught in the proposed Ross Sea ocean sanctuary.

Loblaw is second, also receiving a green rating and is the most advanced on policy implementation.

Metro is third and has expressed support for the creation of marine reserves in a new policy edition, as did Walmart Canada in its latest policy, placing 5th.

The company’s 2014 scores out of 100 in order of rank from first to eighth place are as follows:  Canada Safeway (74); Loblaw Companies Ltd. (73); Metro Inc. (67); Overwaitea Food Group (61); Walmart Canada (59); Federated Cooperatives (58); Sobeys Inc. (58) and Costco Canada (38).

The report also reveals that marine protection is what consumers want. A poll commissioned by  Greenpeace Canada and conducted by Stratcom earlier this year, found that 78 per cent of Canadians want at least 10 per cent of our oceans protected in the highest form of protection - notake marine reserves, or ocean sanctuaries. It found that the overwhelming majority (94 per cent) of Canadians want either fully or partially protected areas.

Less than 3 per cent of the world’s oceans are protected; in Canadian marine waters it's less than 1 per cent. Canada lags far behind other nations on marine protection, and the federal government is not on track to meet its commitment made under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, for 10 per cent protection of coastal and marine areas by 2020. 

The need to protect the oceans is urgent. Leaders in other countries have been sounding the alarm. Last week, the Global Ocean Commission, comprised of influential business people and former heads of state including The Right Honourable Paul Martin, released a report, Five-year Ocean Rescue Package recommending ways to address key threats and ensure protection in the high seas.

Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry convened world leaders in Washington DC for the Our Ocean Conference where they discussed the need for oceans protection.

President Obama has announced that he will create the world’s largest marine reserve.

Greenpeace calls on retailers to jump in.

"As major buyers and sellers of seafood, big retailers could help push governments to act faster to protect our oceans" says King. "Retailers have the ear of their consumers, the government and their suppliers, so if they start talking about supporting more ocean sanctuaries, people will listen".

Note on the report:
On scoring: Companies move from a red rating to an orange rating at a score of 41 per cent, are considered to be passing at 50 per cent and receive a green rating with a score of 71 per cent or higher. To get full marks, supermarkets need to have strong, fully implemented sustainable seafood procurement policies that apply to all products that may contain marine ingredients, not sell any redgraded seafood and be showing leadership in effecting positive change in our oceans.