Every year for the past five years it has been the same story: shortly before Christmas, we get busy as bees at the Greenpeace Germany office, preparing to publish our ranking guide for the fish purchasing policies of German supermarkets, hoping for some progress. But this year, we were in for a welcome surprise...
Doing analyses of long, long, long spreadsheets and listening to the endless ringing of phones from retailers isn’t the most festive way to spend early December. According to current data, every German is consuming on average 15.7 kg of fish per year. Greenpeace staff and volunteers and myself are all working to make sure that fish is caught responsibly and from the right places.
For five years we have been conducting assessments of the fish sourcing policies of 15 German retailers - supermarkets and discount retailers. In 2007, when we started, none of the companies had a seafood procurement policy. Most of them in fact had no idea where their fish was coming from or how the fish was caught or what sort of condition the fish species’ populations were in. It was hard work to get them interested and have them understand the crisis our oceans are facing due to widespread overfishing. And even harder work to have them recognise their own responsibility to act and put improvements into place.
But we kept pushing, did store checks, various assessments of policies and discussed what we found with the supermarket industry. We repeated our scientific information and our recommendations. Again and again…
And finally we succeeded! Today we can celebrate a big achievement: all 15 German retailers that have been assessed by Greenpeace now have written fish procurement policies. Supermarkets requiring a sustainable fish purchasing chain and the improved labelling and traceability of fish products may reduce the overfishing of our oceans.
We are not there yet: there still is no company that earned a ‘green’ ranking, meaning that it has a fully satisfactory standard for their fish procurement. There is still a lot to do - we still need a 100 percent commitment from the retailers to implement their new policies.
The engagement of the retailers in our oceans campaign is very important in more than one way. Fisheries policies are failing- worldwide and here in Europe. Currently, Europe has the opportunity to change the future of our oceans: the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which only happens once every ten years is happening right now. This is our best change to get oceans management right. I hope that the politicians fulfil their responsibility and create sustainable fisheries management with the support of German retailers. Only an engagement of everyone- politicians, fishing industry, retailers and consumers - can save the oceans and the amazing marine life we all depend upon.
All of you can make a difference! Anyone can start by choosing sustainably sourced fish. To help you do this, we have put together a global red list of species you should avoid. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/seafood/
Dr. Iris Menn is an Oceans & Biodiversity Campaigner with Greenpeace Germany