Greenpeace seafood ranking shows supermarkets still selling out the oceans

Feature story - May 21, 2009
Canadians with seafood that is sustainably caught and farmed and failing to help protect the world’s oceans and marine life.

Supermarket Ranking

The report, Out of Stock Out of Excuses: Ranking retailers on seafood sustainability, shows that while some retailers have made progress on providing sustainable seafood others are ignoring the crisis in the oceans.

We released the report in Montreal at a news conference 22 May 2009.

Not enough progress

All chains must do more to protect the world's oceans and fish stocks.

"Our analysis shows that major supermarket chains are still part of the problem of destroying our oceans and destroying seafood," said Beth Hunter, Greenpeace oceans campaign coordinator. "Some of the chains have taken steps in the right direction, but bigger strides are needed to ensure fish for the future. Supermarkets are selling our oceans and themselves out of stock."

Ranking the major supermarkets

The report ranks the major supermarket chains. Here's how they scored out of 10:

  • Loblaw 2.4;
  • Sobeys 1.1;
  • Walmart 1.0;
  • Overwaitea 0.9;
  • Federated Co-Operatives 0.9;
  • Costco 0.7
  • Safeway 0.3; and
  • Metro 0.1.

Out of Stock Out of Excuses ranking criteria

Greenpeace visited supermarkets, contacted representatives and assessed their performance against seven criteria:

  • 1. Sustainable seafood policy: did a policy exist, is it implemented;
  • 2. Information on how seafood is harvested: what criteria were used for excluding seafood from unsustainable fisheries or aquaculture operations;
  • 3. Sustainability initiatives: efforts made to work with suppliers to find sustaiable alternatives and to support research;
  • 4. Traceability: ensuring that seafood can be traced back to the ship;
  • 5. Labelling: providing customers with information on scientific name of species, origin, method of catch or farming;
  • 6. Redlist species sold: number of Redlist species sold by a chain out of 15;
  • 7. Promotion and auditing: efforts to raise customer awareness about sustainability, working with stakeholders on fisheries issues and undertaking audits

The why behind scores

Loblaw received the highest overall score because it has released a sustainable seafood policy that would see the company only selling sustainable seafood by 2013. However, the policy is short on detail and is not yet implemented, so Loblaw did not receive a passing mark.

The Metro chain received the lowest ranking, in part because it has no plan to develop a sustainable seafood policy. It also sells 14 out of the 15 Redlist species.

Redlist species

Greenpeace has established a Redlist of 15 seafood species that are harvested by the most harmful fishing and farming practices.

Our new report shows that Canada's major chains sell between six and 14 of the 15 species. In all cases, they do not provide their customers with enough information that would allow them to easily choose species that are under less pressure.

The Redlist was explained in a report we issued last year Out of Stock: Supermarkets and the future of seafood.

Challenging supermarkets

In last year's report, we challenged Canadian supermarkets to do much more to protect the oceans. A key challenge was to ask them to stop selling Redlist species and adopt strong policies.

So far, none of the supermarket chains has lived up to the challenge and removed all Redlist seafood from their shelves.

Ocean situation worse

Since last year's report the situation in the oceans has worsened.

For example, scientists have determined that one of Canada's Atlantic cod stocks off western Newfoundland will never recover and other stocks show little sign of recovery since the cod fishery collapsed in the early 1990s.

Around the world, fish such as bluefin tuna and orange roughy face similar declines.

Don't buy, don't sell Redlist fish

"Metro and several other supermarkets seem to find it acceptable to sell seafood that is overexploited, illegally fished or destructively farmed," said Sarah King, Greenpeace oceans campaigner. They are making no effort to protect the oceans. There is an urgent need for all supermarkets to heed the message of our campaign: Don't buy, don't sell Redlist fish."