Publix, Winn-Dixie fail Greenpeace sustainable seafood study

By | April 12th, 2011 | 3 Comments

The CATO report ranked Miami grocers Publix and Winn-Dixie in the bottom five for seafood sustainability.

This morning, Greenpeace released its fifth “Carting Away the Oceans” report, a periodic snapshot of seafood sustainability in the US grocery sector. The CATO report gave two Florida-based supermarkets — Publix and Winn-Dixie — a failing grade while applauding Costco for making positive change to its seafood policy. Out of 20 large retailers, Publix ranked 17th and Winn-Dixie 19th in seafood sustainability, ahead of only Meijer, a Michigan-based chain.

The CATO report criticized Publix and Winn Dixie, which have approximately 1,500 locations in the Southeastern United States combined, for selling various items on Greenpeace’s “Red List”, including Atlantic salmon, orange roughy, Chilean Sea Bass (aka Antarctic toothfish), and shark. The supermarkets have resisted calls to implement sustainable seafood policies and do “not sufficiently label seafood products so that consumers can avoid purchasing destructively fished species,” according to the report.

Even as it called these “dark times” in which “devastation wrought by global industrialized fishing continues on a massive scale”, the CATO report celebrated “a current of progress and innovation emanating throughout the seafood sector” in the last four years. The rise of “conventional mega-grocer” Safeway to the report’s top spot and Costco’s conversion, in the face of public pressure, from “one of the worst historical performers in CATO rankings” to 11th on the list indicate a fundamental shift in corporate posture toward sustainable seafood policy, the report says.

From the report:

Consumers deserve to be able to purchase seafood from retailers that care about the condition of our oceans and that properly steward our marine resources. The days of selling fish with no regard for the environment are over. Companies have two choices—they can implement strong seafood policies and become leaders, or they can ignore reality and continue their unsustainable seafood practices until many popular seafood items are no longer available. And increasingly, if they choose the latter course, they will reap the wrath of a consumer public that has simply had enough.

This warning is obviously directed at the report’s lowest performers, including Publix and Winn-Dixie, two of Miami’s most prominent grocers. The question is, Is it an empty threat? Here in Miami, will consumers pressure Publix and Winn-Dixie to implement sustainable seafood policies? Will they have the conviction to shop elsewhere if the stores don’t buckle? Will they sacrifice convenience or low prices to stave off the destruction of vital fisheries?

These are not meant to be rhetorical questions. What do you think?

Download the CATO report on

3 Comments on “Publix, Winn-Dixie fail Greenpeace sustainable seafood study”

  1. 1 Jordan Melnick said at 6:16 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    FYI I did not find responses to the report by either Publix or W-D when I posted this.

  2. 2 Erik O said at 9:43 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    I helped conduct some of the surveys here in South Florida that provided data for this report, and was shocked to find just how many red-listed fish our local supermarkets sell. I found swordfish, Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, swordfish, and even shark for sale.

    The most distressing part for me was that really like shopping at Publix. I shop there all the time: they are close by and have a wonderful selection of goods, especially a growing supply of organic and vegetarian products. I’d like to keep shopping there, but won’t be able to if they fail to improve their seafood policies.

    So what do I do? Well, I don’t buy any red listed seafood for one, but I also make it a point to deliver a comment to the store manager or customer service counter whenever I’m there.

    While I was conducting surveys, I spoke with quite a few Publix and Winn-Dixie store managers about the seafood they were selling. Their responses varied from genuine concern, to indifferent annoyance, to hostile suspicion, but each of them promised they would send my concerns up the chain of command. To make sure they did – I wrote my concerns down in a note.

    If the store hears from more customers like me, with specific complaints, in writing, they will know that it isn’t just Greenpeace urging them to change, but their own customers too.

    On you next shopping trip, why not take a minute or two and chat with the manager about their seafood? Or you can call their customer service line at 800-242-1227. Either way, let them know they should stop selling red-listed fish like orange roughy, swordfish, Chilean sea bass, grouper and red snapper.

  3. 3 Paula said at 10:04 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    Interesting to see Target rank higher than Whole Foods. Publix claims that it sources sustainable seafood.

    “We focus our seafood sourcing efforts on providing our customers with the best products and great variety while being good stewards of the environment. We go to great lengths to ensure that all of our seafood comes from legal fisheries, and we source domestically whenever possible. However, the seafood industry is such that we must source product from all over the world.”

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