Shaw's Commits to Sustainable Seafood

WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — Shaw's Supermarkets here has announced the launch of a new sustainable seafood program developed in collaboration with the Marine Stewardship Council, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and its single seafood supplier, North Coast Seafood.

The initial MSC-certified product offerings will include wild sockeye salmon, wild king salmon, wild Coho salmon, wild Alaskan halibut, pacific frozen-at-sea cod, Canadian frozen-at-sea flounder, Icelandic fresh haddock and Canadian fresh haddock, Shaw's announced in a release. Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested products will include lobster, northern shrimp, cod, haddock, sea scallops, and pollock. Additional fresh seafood items will be added as the program expands over time.

“MSC is really a global standard for sustainable seafood, and the [GMRI] operates in a similar fashion, but on a regional scale,” Shaw's spokesman Steve Sylven told SN.

Seafood sustainability is becoming an increasingly prominent issue as marine biologists warn that, within the next few decades, overfishing could leave several species “commercially extinct” — their numbers so depleted that it is no longer commercially viable to harvest those fish from the ocean. This is a concern for seafood buyers as well as their customers.

“When you're sourcing fish through sustainable fisheries, it does a few things. For one, it's important to our customers,” Sylven said. “It gives them the confidence of knowing that the product they are buying from us is coming from a viable source.

“But you also look at it from the perspective of the industry itself. It's making a commitment to ensure there is a seafood supply for generations to come.”

Ensuring the ongoing vitality of the seafood industry is especially important for a company with such deep roots in New England.

“Shaw's has been ingrained in New England for over 150 years, and certainly the [regional] fishing industry is something that's tied really closely to our industry and our company.”

Shaw's initiative follows the public commitment that parent company Supervalu made earlier this year, promising to source 100% of its top-20 wild-caught seafood products from MSC-certified fisheries, or from fisheries that are on a clear pathway to sustainability by 2015 through a World Wildlife Fund Fishery Improvement Project.

And, as more retailers commit to sustainable sourcing, it helps encourage even more to sign on, noted MSC executives.

“Shaw's commitment to MSC certified sustainable seafood is an example of leadership at the retail level that will have a ripple effect throughout the industry,” Kerry Coughlin, MSC regional director, Americas, said in a release. “By taking this step, Shaw's will offer customers seafood that can be traced from the Shaw's fresh case directly back to an MSC certified fishery, thereby supporting sustainable fisheries and the communities and livelihoods that are tied directly to the sea.”

As part of the new initiative, Shaw's seafood experts collectively underwent 4,500 hours of training on seafood sustainability issues, ensuring that they will be ready to implement the program and answer questions from their customers.

“Part of the training focused on sustainable fishing practices and being able to speak to what it means to have products that are [certified by] MSC or GMRI,” Sylven explained.

The training is part of a broader effort at Shaw's “to make sure that we have educated seafood experts who are able to inform our customers about anything from the very specific types of fish, to sustainability issues as a whole, right down to talking about the best ways to prepare fish,” he said.