Safeway, Albertsons to Stock More Sustainable Seafood

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Are you concerned about the state of the world’s fish and seafood stocks? There’s some good news when it comes to sustainable seafood choices in supermarkets.

Albertsons Companies is expanding its partnership with FishWise, the nonprofit sustainable seafood advisor. The second largest traditional grocery store chain in the U.S. after merging with Safeway in January, Albertsons has over 2,200 stores in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The partnership expansion covers all of its banners.

Safeway began partnering with FishWise back in 2010 to develop and implement a better sustainable seafood policy. FishWise will work with Albertsons to collect vendor and product information and assess opportunities for each of the company’s banners. In 2011, Safeway set a goal for all of its fresh and frozen seafood to be responsibly caught or farmed by 2015. The company is on track to reach its goal by the end of this year with over 75 percent of its seafood sourcing in compliance.

Both Albertsons and Safeway state on their websites that they support sustainable food choices, including sustainable seafood:

“… As we monitor global food sustainability issues, which at this time is mostly in regard to responsibly fishing our oceans, we make assortment decisions in the seafood we offer,” Albertsons says.

“We offer seafood that already meets our 2015 goal. Look for items marked ‘Responsible Choice’ while you shop,” Safeway points out to its customers.

There’s always room for improvement

As with any company, both Albertsons and Safeway have room for improvement. Greenpeace recently released its 2015 report, Carting Away the Oceans, which evaluated and ranked supermarkets on their efforts to make their seafood supplies more sustainable. While Safeway ranked No. 4 and ended up in the “good” category, the company’s score slightly decreased this year.

The report expressed concerns that Safeway still carries “red list” species and recommends that the grocery store chain immediately drop Chilean sea bass. There is also concern about the sustainability of Safeway’s tuna sourcing for its private label canned tuna products, and Greenpeace recommends a strong canned tuna policy be developed this year.

“There is concern on the horizon due to its recent merger with Albertsons,” the report states. “Albertsons’ leadership must prioritize sustainable seafood with the same tenacity with which Safeway has in the past.” Fortunately, it appears from the recent announcement that Albertsons is partnering with FishWise that the grocery store chain is prioritizing sustainable seafood.

The Greenpeace report also points out what Safeway is doing right. Safeway backed a letter to Congress sent by the majority of top five retailers in support of the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015. The legislation would strengthen enforcement mechanisms to stop IUU fishing.

If Safeway takes the recommendations of Greenpeace to heart, it could very well greatly improve its score next year. The same goes for Albertsons. One thing is for sure: These are two grocery store chains to keep an eye on.

Image credit: Flickr/Mike McCune

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.