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 greenpeace.org.