Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is to reveal how and where it sources its seafood.
The international group has joined the Ocean Disclosure Project, a transparency website established by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, the Honolulu-based professional body that promotes ethical standards in the fish and shellfish industry.
Walmart is expected to use the site to name the waters where it finds its seafood and the equipment used, and to give information on management, environmental impacts, certifications and projects to improve its practices.
Laura Phillips, Walmart’s senior vice-president of sustainability, said: “We are proud of our efforts to make the seafood we sell more sustainable, and joining the Ocean Disclosure Project is one more way we can show our passion and commitment for sustainability and transparency.
“[The project] provides an important service to consumers and other stakeholders.”
Other retailers that have joined the project include Asda, Co-op Food and Morrisons in the UK, and Publix, based in the United States. Seafood suppliers on the site include North Atlantic, Joseph Robertson and the French company Davigel, and aquaculture feed manufacturers include Biomar, Cargill/EWOS and Skretting.
Walmart, as the industry big name, with 2.1 million employees, could have the greatest influence, attracting more retailers and suppliers, said Blake Lee-Harwood, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s strategy director.
Lee-Harwood said: “It is fantastic news that the largest retailer in the world has now joined the Ocean Disclosure Project. Walmart has made a huge contribution to making seafood more sustainable and is now showing real leadership in adopting a more transparent approach to the sustainability aspects of the fish and shellfish the company sells.”
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership itself has a new influential corporate partner. The Nueva Pescanova fish and seafood group, which is based in Galicia, north-western Spain, and operates in more than two dozen countries, says it welcomes working with the partnership to improve the sustainability of its supply chain.
Juanjo De la Cerda, the Nueva Pescanova corporate director of research, quality and sustainability, said: “Working together with the partnership is an important step that will help us to be more transparent and contribute more actively in improving the conservation of resources and the rationalisation of fishing, a commitment that has been present in the DNA of our company for almost six decades.”
In a related development Canadian businesses and consumers represented by SeaChoice, which promotes seafood sustainability, are in talks with government inspectors to introduce stricter labelling regulations.
The consultations follow a scientific survey by Guelph University, Ontario, for SeaChoice, showing that many supermarkets were selling seafood that was mislabelled and poorly or fraudulently labelled, thanks to vague legislation. The only information needed in Canada is the common name and the country of final processing.
Of the labels collected, only three per cent received top marks for good practice. The researchers found seven per cent acceptable, 26 per cent unsatisfactory, 57 per cent poor, and one per cent fraudulent.
However, the inadequate regulation made it difficult to decide whether mislabelling resulted from lack of supervision or premeditated resistance to giving more information.
Colleen Turlo, SeaChoice’s national co-ordinator, explained: “If something was listed as snapper but in the Canadian regulation it should be technically called Pacific snapper, we would just consider that mislabelling because it’s not necessarily misleading or too untruthful.
“But if something is labelled as cod and it is actually hake, pollock or a different species, we would consider that fraud.”
One important reason for more precise information is that 73 per cent of Canadian seafood is exported, mainly to countries with tougher labelling laws.
The present consultations between SeaChoice and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are expected to produce new regulations in spring 2018.
Another clean-up is taking place in China. Government officials have closed 30 illegal aquaculture sites in an area of Hunan province that is important in the country’s freshwater crab and fish production. A pollution task force had promised to eliminate “unlicensed breeding operations”.
John Howell, Chief of Thought Leadership and Editorial Director, is a co-founder of 3BL Media, the parent company of Triple Pundit, begun in 2009. Howell oversees original editorial content procurement and creation. He is also the author of the weekly Brands Taking Stands Newsletter. He has written and edited for Elle, Artforum, High Times, the New York Times Magazine, and the LA Times. Howell is based in Wonalancet, NH.