Last week, Safeway and Fair Trade USA announced a partnership to launch Fair Trade Certified™ seafood into the North American market. The program addresses both social and environmental responsibility in fishing communities across the globe. In March, Safeway will debut the world’s first Fair Trade fish – wild-capture tuna from small-scale fishermen in Indonesia – in its Northern California, Portland and Seattle Division stores. As additional supply becomes available, the tuna will be introduced in other operating areas.
After years of research and consultation with leading industry experts and nonprofits around the world, Fair Trade USA in October expanded the number of Fair Trade Certified products available by launching the Fair Trade Fisheries program. Its goal is to build resilient livelihoods in impoverished coastal communities, improve working and living conditions, increase supply and demand for responsibly sourced seafood, and enhance environmental stewardship.
“Fair Trade’s holistic approach has an important role to play in sustaining healthy fishing communities and oceans for generations to come,” said Maya Spaull, Director of New Category Innovation at Fair Trade USA, “and we’re thrilled that Safeway shoppers will be the first to help create lasting change through their everyday seafood purchases.”
Similar to other well-known Fair Trade Certified products, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, flowers, produce and apparel, the Fisheries program requires fishermen to source and trade according to rigorous, independently audited standards. The standards are designed to protect human rights, prevent forced and child labor, establish safe working conditions, regulate work hours and benefits, and enable responsible resource management. The fishing industry is notorious for labor abuse, which makes these standards especially important.
In addition to improving labor conditions, Fair Trade is also helping to foster community collaboration among isolated groups of fishermen. For every Fair Trade Certified tuna sold, fisherman receive an additional Community Development Premium—10 percent of the dock-side price—which they can collectively invest in community projects such as education and healthcare.
The first certified tuna products, imported by Anova Food LLC and packed under the Natural Blue™ brand, will come from four associations representing 120 small-scale fishermen in the Indonesian Maluku island chain. The fishermen use single-hook handlines attached to handmade kites to locate and catch large, adult yellowfin tuna from their small boats. They say they plan to use part of their first Fair Trade Community Development Premiums to purchase compasses to help them navigate their way home through thick fog.
“Safeway recognizes its responsibility to help protect our oceans in an effort to maintain the availability of seafood for future generations and the health of our planet,” said Buster Houston, Group Director of Seafood at Albertsons Safeway, “and this unique offering, beginning with frozen tuna steaks and burgers has the added benefit of being a Fair Trade Certified product.”
Along with Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Walmart, which have also made improvements to their seafood sourcing by launching private-label, sustainable canned tuna products, Safeway says it is on track to achieve its goal of sourcing responsibly caught or farmed fresh and frozen seafood by the end of 2015.