A guide to which retailers are doing it right
A warm summer day, a cold drink and fish on the grill, it doesn’t get much better. But how do you know if your fish is sustainable? It can be a challenge, especially considering SeaChoice found just 11 per cent of seafood available in Canada in 2016 was rated as a “best choice.” Many retailers have sustainable seafood policies, but how good are they?
Although all major Canadian retailers have made a commitment to sustainable seafood, their products and definitions of “sustainable” vary, which can make consumer choices difficult. Using information from retailers and public sources, SeaChoice — a Living Oceans Society, Ecology Action Centre and David Suzuki Foundation partnership — is applying 22 performance indicators to assess sustainable seafood commitments made by Buy-Low Foods, Costco, Co-op, Loblaws, Metro, Save-On-Foods, Safeway, Sobeys and Walmart Canada. The indicators are based on “six steps that form the vision for sustainable seafood developed by environmental groups across North America.”
According to SeaChoice’s Seafood Progress Year 1 report, on average, retailers did well on three of the six steps: make a public commitment, collect data and source responsibly. Some needed improvement on two steps: be transparent and educate. All scored lower on the sixth: support improvements. The last is important in bringing about changes on the water.
“If retailers are going to sell some of the more unsustainable seafood products available in Canada, they should be taking action to improve fisheries and farm practices,” the report says.
As well as environmental issues, SeaChoice also analyzed retailers’ social responsibility commitments and recommends that retailers “take action to confirm that no human rights abuses or labour violations are taking place in their supply chain.”
SeaChoice recommends retailers label products with “the species’ scientific (Latin) name, country of origin, whether it is wild or farmed and the gear type or farming method,” but found that only one retailer, Metro, included such comprehensive information. It might seem like a lot to put on a label, but the EU requires all retailers to meet these standards.
Oceans and the life they support face many threats, from pollution and climate change to increasing ship traffic. Choosing fish, shellfish and seaweed products that don’t add to the threats can be difficult. Programs like Seafood Progress identify retailers that follow best practices, and encourage retailers to demonstrate corporate responsibility and help the seafood industry progress toward sustainability.
The EU requires retailers to meet all seafood labelling requirements