Refresh [1]
Scoring Seafood

Scoring Seafood

No doubt, the need to source sustainable seafood is an urgent one for the food industry. Populations are depleting [3] as a result of over fishing, and destructive practices [4] such as bottom trawling have damaged fragile underwater ecosystems. Knowing how and where to find a truly sustainable catch is difficult, however. Retailers have price and supply concerns, and conscientious shoppers are having trouble sorting through the various certifiers out there.

sea2.jpg [5]Activist organization Greenpeace [6] wants to help further the issue with its latest report [7], which rates 20 major supermarket chains according to how sustainable their seafood selection is. “Carting Away the Oceans: How Grocery Stores are Emptying the Seas” covers 75 pages, though I’ll go ahead and give away the plot right now (if you couldn’t figure it out from the title): They all failed. Even Greenpeace’s top scorer Whole Foods [8], which has worked closely with the respected Marine Stewardship Council [9] since 1999, only dredges up a 4 out of 10 on the scorecard. Publix [10] and Price Chopper [11], two retailers who have made great strides in health and wellness over the years, scored at the very bottom.

The report actually makes a lot of excellent points. Sustainable sourcing is nowhere near where it needs to be, considering the rate of aquaculture depletion right now. A number of retailers — Whole Foods included — have admitted as much. It also states, rightly, that supermarkets need to have a supply plan in place, as well as standards.

But it’s not a very constructive critique. Indeed, Greenpeace doesn’t recommend any species of fish or certification programs as alternatives — just that consumers and retailers abstain from its “Red List” [12] of 22 different varieties of fish, as well as other unsustainable choices. That’s suspicious advice, especially since, as Los Angeles Times food writer Russ Parsons [13] says, “the list paints with a very broad brush, and in the the confusing world of seafood that can lead to some serious oversimplifications.” It also snuffs a lot of highly reputable organizations working to certify and promote sustainable seafood.

As I mentioned, a lot of retailers have acknowledged that they need to do more to promote the health of aquaculture. That’s a good step, and they need to work hard and make sure they follow through with it. Otherwise, there might not be a seafood section years from now.