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Whole Foods, Safeway Again Top Seafood Sustainability Ranking; Kroger Still Lagging

Image credit: Greenpeace

Today, Greenpeace released the 8th edition of its annual report, Carting Away the Oceans, which evaluates 26 major retailers on their seafood sourcing and sustainability.

For the second year in a row, Whole Foods and Safeway topped the ranking. Employee-owned, Midwestern grocery chain Hy-Vee was evaluated for the first time and immediately ranked in the top five.

Four supermarkets — Roundy's, Bi-Lo, Save Mart and Publix — failed altogether, while Kroger, the fifth largest food retailer in the world, is called out for selling the most Red List species of any U.S. grocery chain for the third consecutive year.

Click to enlarge.

“When Greenpeace started ranking America’s retailers on seafood sustainability in 2008, every company failed. We’ve seen huge improvements since then, yet grocery giants like Kroger are still stocking too many threatened Red List species, which are often caught using highly destructive fishing methods.” said Mitchell.

“Consumers want to be able to walk into their local grocery store and know that all the options are sustainable,” said James Mitchell, Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner. “That’s why Greenpeace is pushing companies like Bi-Lo, Save Mart and Roundy’s to drastically improve their sourcing, so that making the right decision is easy for their customers.”

Four of the top five supermarkets have launched, or will shortly launch, private-label sustainable canned tuna products. Consumers will now be able to find sustainable and affordable alternatives to destructively caught tuna at four of the top five supermarkets — Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Hy-Vee — as well as at Walmart (#12). The report gives further credit to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for not stocking brands that catch tuna with destructive fishing methods such as Chicken of the Sea, StarKist and Bumble Bee; the latter last year launched a “Wild Selections” line of tuna that would be MSC-certified and benefit WWF, as part of its “deep commitment” to sustainable seafood, but revealed no further details about certifying the rest of its catch.

Target, which announced in 2011 that it would sell only sustainable seafood by 2015, fell two spots to #8 on Greenpeace’s list this year. The report finds that while Target is sticking to its pledge of selling only sustainable and traceable seafood (which it generally defines as selling no “red” species, unless the fisheries are in a fisheries improvement project (FIP) “on a clear, time-bound and credible path to improvement”), Greenpeace urges the company to conduct due diligence on the efficacy of the specific FIPs before becoming fully engaged in them. The NGO also pointed out that Target needs to “reconcile its broader-applying policy to its problematic canned tuna inventory;” the retailer offers Wild Planet pole-and-line caught canned tuna, but still also carries Bumble Bee and Starkist brands. “Nonetheless,” the report says, “if Target sticks to some of the goals it has set for itself over the coming years, the company could find itself climbing up the charts again.”

Despite progress made by the retail sector overall, overfishing, destructive fishing and illegal fishing are still major problems for ocean conservation and the economies of developing countries. Populations of the ocean’s top predators including sharks, tuna, and swordfish have dropped by as much as 90 percent over the past half-century. Bycatch — where species like sharks and turtles are caught unintentionally in the process of fishing, then thrown back into the sea dead or dying — threatens marine ecosystems as well as global food security.  


Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor at Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]

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