New Greenpeace sustainable seafood report shakes up leading supermarket chains

Feature story - April 28, 2010
In the fourth edition of Greenpeace’s seafood sustainability scorecard, Carting Away the Oceans, we are noticing a trend emerging among the largest US seafood retailers. 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. At the same time, there are many supermarkets that haven’t taken any responsibility for the seafood they sell, or for the damage they are doing to our oceans—such as H.E.B., Meijer, Costco, SUPERVALU, Publix, and Winn Dixie.

Where does your supermarket stack up in the rankings? If you're wondering this very question, stop by Greenpeace's online supermarket lookup. All you have to do is enter the state you live in and a listing of supermarkets along with their rankings will appear for you to review.

Trader Joe's gets a little greener

Over the past seven months, Greenpeace has engaged in a direct campaign to expose the practices of one of the worst historical performers in Carting Away the Oceans rankings: Trader Joe's. In August 2009, the company's lack of a sustainable seafood policy, misleading labeling practices, and unsustainable inventory items led Greenpeace to initiate a series of online and on-the-ground actions addressing the company's unacceptable behavior.

Now, eight months later, we find ourselves victorious and cautiously optimistic. Trader Joe's has reformed to a significant degree. The company is reportedly discussing a partnership with a reputable third party to help in making sustainable decisions. Trader Joe's is also 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.

This incredible victory was the result of actions taken by tens of thousands of people across the country that demanded change. These activists took up the call and confronted Trader Joe's directly through phone calls, letters, e-mails and in-store demonstrations.

Target is pushing the envelope

Target has risen to the top of the Carting Away the Oceans rankings by embracing challenges that other retailers dismiss as impractical or impossible. The company's recent implementation of seafood standards that exclude the sale of any farmed salmon whatsoever sent shockwaves through the aquaculture industry. Target has vowed to continue improving the sustainability of its seafood operation.

Supermarkets play a BIG role in ocean protection

Recent scientific studies have shown that 90 percent of the world's top predatory fish have disappeared, and that unless current fishing practices change, global fish stocks will collapse by the middle of this century. Supermarkets ring up nearly $16 billion in seafood sales every year, and much of it is caught or raised unsustainably. Supermarkets have a responsibility to their customers and the environment to avoid trading in seafood from destructive fisheries and fish farms. Greenpeace first launched, Carting Away the Oceans in June 2008 to document how major supermarkets are performing on sustainable seafood, and provides tools for consumers so they can make educated decisions about where to shop and what to buy.

Here's a look at how the seafood industry has changed over time and how the health of the oceans has improved as a result.  While we're thrilled to see so many improvements, there's still a lot more ground to cover.

Charting Progress

To use the timeline below, drag the slider button to the part of the slideshow you want to see. Then, click on a date to expand the selection in the window above.

Get Involved

We deserve to purchase seafood from supermarkets that care about the condition of our oceans. The days of selling fish with no regard for the environment are over. As a consumer, you can help support seafood sustainability and ocean protection. Flex your power as a consumer. Tell the largest U.S. supermarket retailers to adopt sustainable seafood policies, stop selling destructively fished seafood, and provide informative labeling so customers, like us, can choose the most sustainable seafood and avoid the most imperiled fish.