Greenpeace released the ninth edition of its Carting Away the Oceans (CATO) report today, ranking 25 supermarkets on the sustainability of their seafood procurement. Whole Foods ranked first for the third year in a row, followed by Wegmans, Hy-Vee, and Safeway in the “good” category. In total, 80 percent of evaluated retailers received passing scores overall.
Supermarkets were scored across four areas:
- Policy: the system the company has in place governing its purchasing decisions. Leaders in this category established and enforced rigorous standards to responsibly source wild-caught and farm-raised seafood
- Initiatives: an appraisal of the company’s proactive participation in coalitions, partnerships and actions promoting seafood sustainability. Leaders in this category made public statements in support of ocean conservation. For example, Safeway recently launched a partnership with Fair Trade USA to introduce sustainable seafood into its North American market.
- Labeling and Transparency: the level of disclosure about a company’s seafood sources, and the clarity with which this is communicated to consumers. Leaders in this category went to considerable lengths to create clear ways for the public to learn about seafood they buy and the impacts of their purchases.
- Red List Inventory: A list of 22 marine species that should not be made commercially available, according to Greenpeace, because of low stock numbers and the associated environmental impacts. Leaders in this category sold the fewest Red List species.
The CATO report also emphasized the importance of addressing human rights abuses and illegal operations in global seafood supply chains.
“Investigations continue to reveal that slavery and human rights abuses are widespread problems in the global seafood industry. Retailers must do their part to protect both the oceans and the workers that provide seafood,” said David Pinsky, Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner. “Ultimately, the buck stops with the supermarkets that sell seafood associated with forced labor or human rights abuses, and it’s simply unacceptable that none have made it a priority.”
The companies leading the Greenpeace ranking have all begun to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and human rights abuses through various partnerships, advocacy and industry-led conversations.
But significant action is needed to eliminate human rights abuses and unsustainable seafood production, according to the report, particularly by low-performing companies. Southeastern Grocers, Roundy’s, Publix, A&P and Save Mart all finished in the “fail” category in the ranking.
The CATO report examined the canned tuna sourcing of the 25 retailers in detail. Since the last report, Costco and Target introduced their own brands of “ocean safe” canned tuna, while larger retailers such as Walmart and Kroger (#12 and #18, respectively) do not offer ocean safe tuna through their house brands.
“The tuna industry is particularly destructive — both for industry workers and the oceans we depend on,” said Pinsky. “Retailers that sell or are supplied by Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea or Starkist are complicit. Many of those same retailers sell unsustainable tuna under their own brand names, and have either no policy or an inadequate policy to solve this problem. For the health of the oceans and the people that bring food to our tables, this must change.”
CATO also examined retailers’ support for protecting the Bering Sea, one of the most ecologically rich and commercially productive areas in the world. This year, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant Eagle, Costco, Roundy’s and Southeastern Grocers urged the US government to protect the sea’s canyons, which provide over half of the seafood caught in the US.
The efforts of these retailers follow recent industry collaboration in Mexico to conserve Pacific Bluefin Tuna, a valuable species depleted by overfishing. It also follows a WWF report that places a $2.5 trillion annual value on the goods and services (such as food) provided by the ocean — a value at serious risk from overfishing and pollution.