In 2008, when Greenpeace International conducted its first survey of how well grocers were doing in serving sustainable seafood all of the stores failed.
People knew that many species of fish were being overfished, risking fishery collapses and endangering ocean ecosystems (i.e., the food supply). Yet this information wasn’t being translated into action in the marketplace.
This year, for its 8th annual report, Carting Away the Oceans, the environmental watchdog group reported that four grocery chains have achieved the top rating for serving sustainable species of fish and seafood. Many more grocery chains are not off the hook, but are doing much better in culling endangered fish from their supply chain.
Here’s the chart that will tell you where to shop (click to link to the pdf):
As you can see, four stores received a “Good” rating from Greenpeace: Whole Foods, Safeway (which includes stores under the Safeway, Carrs, Genuardi's, Pavilions, Randall's, Tom Thumb, VONS brands); Wegmans (a chain confined to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic) and Trader Joe’s.
In addition, several other stores received a “Pass” grade, meaning they’ve got mechanisms in place to avoid being an enemy of the oceans and they’re actively trying to avoid selling “red-listed” seafood. Their catches are mostly appropriate, but they have work to do. A few of these stores rated near the top scorers, notably: Hy-Vee, Harris Teeter and Aldi.
Here are the high points Greenpeace called out in the 2014 report:
- Wegmans has become the fourth grocery store to earn the "good" rating since Greenpeace began its industry rankings in 2008.
- Newly-profiled Hy-Vee has entered the rankings in fifth place, an impressive performance for a first-time assessment.
- Of the top five performing supermarkets on sustainable seafood, four have launched or will shortly launch private label sustainable canned tuna products (pole-and-line or FAD-free). Consumers can now find sustainable and affordable tuna at Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe's, Hy-Vee, and Walmart.
- Kroger continues to sell the largest number of Red List species (which should not be sold due to environmental reasons)—setting a poor example for the industry.
- Recent and upcoming industry buyouts could radically shake-up retailers' sustainability performance. Grocery giant Kroger (ranked 21) acquired Harris Teeter (ranked 6) in late January 2014, which could be a loss for our oceans if Kroger replaces Harris Teeter's seafood sourcing policy with its own. (In this report, Harris Teeter is profiled as a standalone store given its independent status for most of the preceding 12-month period.) SUPERVALU sold off a large quantity of its banners, including Albertson's, which is now a sizeable entity in its own right (both are profiled separately in this report). The recent Safeway/Albertsons merger could spell problems for the oceans if 20th ranked Albertsons' seafood policies and practices were to apply to 2nd ranked Safeway.
- Ahold USA and Hy-Vee have joined the growing chorus of retailers calling for protection of part of the Bering Sea Canyons in Alaska—key fisheries with futures threatened by industrial fishing.
- Five new grocers are profiled in this year's report: Wakefern (ShopRite & PriceRite), Hy-Vee, WinCo, Save Mart, and Roundy's. Consumers that shop at these stores will for the first time see how well they perform in the arena of sustainable seafood.
Greenpeace praised the top stores for not adding any Red Listed fish to their supplies, though it criticized even those with favorable overall reports for continuing to carry some of these species.
Red Listed fish and seafood includes species that are endangered, as well as those that are harvested in destructive ways, such as trawling the bottom of the ocean floor, which destroys coral, or with netting practices that needlessly kill many other marine species.
Whole Foods Markets, for instance, continues to carry several Red Listed fish and added back Atlantic halibut this past year, a setback in Greenpeace’s view.
Whole Foods has “dropped the sale of species that most other retailers still carry, employs a variety of mitigation tools that dampen the harm of carrying an unmitigated Red List product and participates in several fishery/aquaculture improvement projects.”
Despite that rather glaring problem, Greenpeace lauded Whole Foods Markets for having “the strongest and most complex” seafood sourcing policy of any grocery retailer, and for working to mitigate the effects of carrying some Red Listed fish. It had high praise for the chain’s virtually banning of unsustainable tuna practices at its 450 stores nationwide.
Greenpeace also praised second-place Safeway for stepping up its game recently:
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