Supermarkets taking steps to rid shelves of Redlist fish

Feature story - April 8, 2010
Greenpeace’s campaign to convince Canada’s supermarket chains to remove Redlist fish from their shelves is having results.

Last spring, Greenpeace released the second report ranking supermarket chains on removing Redlist species, seafood that comes from operations that use harmful fishing and fish farming practices. All the chains did poorly.

Since then, several chains have improved. This creates hope there will be more improvement before the next ranking report comes out later this spring.

The Overwaitea Food Group was first to commit to removing Redlist species from sale. It no longer sells shark, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass and swordfish. This delisting coincided with Overwaitea’s release of a sustainable seafood policy to eliminate Redlist species as a crucial element in sustainable seafood procurement.

Next, Safeway Canada released pamphlets to tell their customers that it was committed to improving seafood sustainability. Safeway also cut the number of species on the Redlist it sells in half, removing six of 12 — Arctic surf clams, orange roughy, Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass), shark, skates and rays and swordfish.

Recently, Loblaw, Canada’s largest retailer, stopped selling four Redlist species — sharks, skates, orange roughy and Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass). This came eight months after announcing it would release a seafood policy. Loblaw still sells 10 Redlist species.

Loblaw is emphasizing the need to protect the oceans by putting out empty seafood trays for the species it no longer sells. Signs explain these are species at risk. Unfortunately, some Loblaw alternatives are not the greenest choices. They suggest replacing swordfish with tuna. But Bluefin, yellowfin and bigeye tuna are all on the Redlist because they are overfished.

Metro, last in the ranking last year, is evaluating the Redlist seafood it sells and is contacting suppliers to find more sustainable options while developing a sustainable seafood policy. Metro says it will make public its decisions on removing Redlist species before the next Greenpeace ranking report.

In advance of the next ranking report, retailers are focusing on more than just removing Redlist species. Some are finalizing drafts seafood policies; others are working on full implementation of existing policies.

Greenpeace welcomes the needed improvement from last year’s ranking, and hopes those lagging behind have made a 2010 resolution to act.