Oh No Costco!

Greenpeace urges Costco’s to stop selling endangered fish

Feature story - June 29, 2010
Greenpeace surveys found that Costco continues to sell fifteen of the twenty-two red listed seafood species: Alaskan pollock, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sea scallops, Chilean sea bass, grouper, monkfish, ocean quahog, orange roughy, red snapper, redfish, South Atlantic albacore tuna, swordfish, tropical shrimp, and yellowfin tuna.

Two months after the release of its fourth sustainable seafood scorecard profiling major supermarket retailers, Greenpeace launched a website spoofing the Costco Wholesale website and visited the company’s headquarters in Seattle to draw attention to Costco's lack of sustainable seafood policies and purchasing practices.

The Costco way


Over the past two-and-a-half years, Greenpeace has repeatedly asked Costco about its seafood policies and practices, both in preparation for our original Carting Away the Oceans report and for subsequent retailer performance updates: the company has failed to respond to any of Greenpeace’s inquiries.

Greenpeace surveys found that Costco continues to sell fifteen of the twenty-two red listed seafood species: Alaskan pollock, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sea scallops, Chilean sea bass, grouper, monkfish, ocean quahog, orange roughy, red snapper, redfish, South Atlantic albacore tuna, swordfish, tropical shrimp, and yellowfin tuna.

In addition, Costco doesn’t sufficiently label seafood products. As a result, customers can’t avoid purchasing unsustainable items.

Shaking up the industry


It’s becoming clear that several supermarkets—such as Wegmans, Target, and Whole Foods—are deeply invested in making better decisions and providing safer, more sustainable seafood options for their customers.

Trader Joe’s got a little greener, thanks to pressure from Greenpeace and tens of thousands of people across the country that demanded change. Trader Joe’s is crafting a public sustainable seafood policy and redesigning its labeling, and it has already discontinued several of its former red list items, such as orange roughy and red snapper.

But, while many supermarkets are making progress, many are lagging far behind. Costco, in particular, hasn’t taken any responsibility for the seafood they sell or for the damage they are doing to our oceans.

Costco can and must do better


Costco has to stop hiding behind their massive warehouse and start implementing labeling practices so their customers will know exactly what they’re buying.

Costco must also stop selling red listed seafood beginning immediately with orange roughy and Chilean sea bass. These fish species need special protection — both species are long-lived and slow growing, and reproduce late in life. This makes them particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Orange roughy is caught in bottom trawls, which have horrific impacts on the seabed and the animals living there. Chilean sea bass, also known as Antarctic or Patagonian toothfish, is often unregulated, unreported, and illegally caught – pirate fishing at its worst.

Sustainable seafood


As part of its global campaign to ensure the long-term sustainability of fisheries and marine ecosystems, Greenpeace is urging supermarkets to remove the most at-risk species from their shelves. Supermarkets can meet consumer demand for sustainable products by refusing to sell seafood from fisheries that:

  • exploit endangered, vulnerable and/or protected species, or species with poor stock status;
  • cause habitat destruction and/or lead to ecosystem alterations; 
  • cause negative impacts on other, non-target species; 
  • are unregulated, unreported, illegal or managed poorly, and 
  • cause negative impacts on local, fishing dependent communities.

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