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Renee Farris headshot

Greenpeace Says Buy Whole Foods' Seafood

By Renee Farris

Greenpeace just released its Carting Away the Oceans report that ranks supermarkets on their efforts to protect oceans and seafood workers.

The winners that get to hoist their sails high are Whole Foods, Wegmans, Hy-Vee and Safeway. Each of these retailers use policies, political advocacy and industry conversations to address illegal and unregulated fishing as well as human rights abuses.

The losers that are stinking like rotting fish are Southeastern Grocers, Roundy’s, Publix, A&P and Save Mart. They ended up in the report’s “fail” category.

The overall findings show that retailers are not doing enough to prevent the widespread problems of illegal and unsustainable fishing as well as human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain. It’s a whale of a problem.

Human rights: Let’s play fair

Working conditions on a fishing boat are some of the worst. There isn’t much monitoring, control, surveillance or enforcement at sea. Some problems attached to the industry include low pay, poor sanitation, unsafe equipment and long working hours. There are cases of forced labor, human trafficking and murder. The high demand for cheap seafood and the race for more fish propel companies to keep fishing boats at sea longer and in dangerous situations.

I don’t have that card, go fish… With a pole

Tuna is the second most popular seafood product. Americans eat 1 billion pounds of it every year. Here’s the sad part: 80 percent of canned tuna comes from “destructive, irresponsible, and wasteful fishing practices,” according to the Greenpeace report. The biggest sharks circling in these waters of irresponsibility are StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea.

On the retail end, Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons-Safeway, Publix, Delhaize and Meijer stock tuna caught through abusive and illegal practices, according to the report.

Greenpeace created the sustainability guide below that ranks the most common tuna brands. How well does the tuna you eat stack up?

The No. 1 tuna brand is Wild Planet. All Wild Planet fish are pole-and-line or troll caught. This has minimal impact to other sea creatures like turtles and dolphins.

Some brands advertise their fish as “wild caught,” which sounds great but doesn’t have anything to do with sustainable fishing -- it just means the fish were caught in the ocean (perhaps using big polluting plastic nets) instead of farmed. Other meaningless descriptions are “sustainably caught” and “responsibly caught.” Those words are empty unless accompanied by certifications and details explaining how the fish were caught.

The report also mentions a handful of companies that swam against the current and asked the government to protect ecologically rich waters like Alaska’s Bering Sea. Thank you Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant Eagle, Costco, Roundy’s and Southeastern Grocers for asking the government to treat vulnerable areas like a seal pup and keep it nice and safe from predators.

Greenpeace has decided that petitions are nice but protests are probably more effective. Feel free to wear your Finding Nemo costume to Walmart on July 25 because Greenpeace activists will be celebrating “a day of action” at Walmart stores, everyone’s favorite retailer to hate on. The activists will speak with customers in hopes that everyone will demand that the leviathan retailer be a team player and only sell responsible seafood.

Earlier this year, protests sparked Walmart to commit to treating pigs, cows, and chickens better. Hopefully Walmart will once again be persuaded to live up to the second half of its motto, “Live better.”

Many thanks to Greenpeace for providing such a helpful report! As Finding Nemo's Dory would say, “When life gets you down do you know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”

Image credits: Greenpeace

Renee Farris headshotRenee Farris

Renee is a social impact strategist who works with companies to help them focus on key social and environmental opportunities. She loves connecting with people so feel free to contact her at renee.a.farris@gmail.com.

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