Sus­tain­able seafood

A guide to which re­tail­ers are do­ing it right

Annex Post - - CURRENTS -

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

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