Foodtown costing us our oceans

Feature story - August 14, 2009
Our efforts to stop overfishing and destructive practices have expanded over the last few years from a focus purely on the fishing industry to now include seafood retailers. Retailers buy and sell huge quantities of seafood each year, and form important relationships with both their suppliers and their customers.

Greenpeace activists blockade trawler

Last year we published the Red Fish List showing consumers 12 seafood species to avoid in their shopping. In May this year we released the report While Stocks Last - Supermarkets and the Future of Seafood outlining the problems facing our fisheries and recommending a range of solutions. We've been talking directly to the supermarkets urging them to adopt sustainable seafood policies.

Supermarkets have enormous purchasing power and are able to influence the way the fishing industry operates. At present New Zealand supermarkets are in a position where they stock whatever seafood is supplied rather than what they want to sell. It's a bit like a fashion shop trying to sell you a winter wardrobe in the middle of summer because that's all their suppliers will give them.

Seafood retailers need a seafood purchasing policy and it needs to be based on sustainability.

This is happening across Europe and North America and, as a result, some supermarkets there no longer stock New Zealand caught orange roughy or hoki as it is caught by bottom trawling which fails their sustainability standards.

Greenpeace has developed a model sustainable seafood policy and over the last 12 months has been encouraging New Zealand's two supermarket companies Progressive Enterprises and Foodstuffs to implement such a policy.

Foodstuffs (which includes Pak'n'Save, New World, Four Square, On the Spot, Shoprite and Write Price) has said it is considering whether to develop a sustainable seafood policy. Progressive Enterprises (Foodtown, Woolworths, Countdown, Super Value, Fresh Choice and Woolworths Quickstop and Micro) has told us that sustainability decisions for the company are made in Australia, not here in New Zealand.

We don't think that's good enough - responsibility for the health of our oceans must be taken here in New Zealand, not left to someone else to take care of. The Australian government has already declared orange roughy a threatened species, yet Progressive Enterprises supermarkets here are still stocking it. Something needs to be done.

To make ourselves heard we have sent Progressive Enterprises two loud messages. Last Friday, August 7, we blockaded a trawler which supplies orange roughy to Foodtown. Orange roughy is caught by seabed trawling - destroying everything in its path and catching a range of other marine species which are thrown back dead or dying. It is one of the most destructive fishing methods in use.

We took this action to establish the clear link that Progressive Enterprises, through its Foodtown supermarkets, was sponsoring ocean destruction by not having a sustainable seafood policy

To ensure supermarkets understood the connection we took the same message to the Quay St Foodtown in Auckland this week. We dropped a large banner above the front entrance and called on the manager to adopt a sustainable seafood policy and to remove orange roughy and unsustainably caught species from sale.

These activities were part of a continuing campaign to let New Zealanders know about the damage that is being done to our oceans and fisheries, and to encourage our supermarkets to take responsibility to protect our waters from overfishing and destructive fishing practices.

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