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Costco Expands Sustainable Seafood Policy

In what is being hailed as a victory for an increasingly swelling base of eco-minded consumers, and likely for Greenpeace -- the environmental activist organization that launched a vigorous national campaign against the Issaquah, Wash.-based club store operator last year -- Costco has eliminated from its 580-plus stores a dozen species that Greenpeace says are harvested in an environmentally unfriendly manner: Atlantic cod; Atlantic halibut; Chilean sea bass; Greenland halibut; grouper; monkfish; orange roughy; redfish; shark; skate and rays; swordfish; and bluefin tuna.

In addition to banishing the 12 species from its warehouse stores unless it can find a Marine Stewardship Council-certified option (MSC), Costco has also pledged to pursue aquaculture certification for its farmed salmon and shrimp, two of its best sellers.

“This new policy is a sign of tremendous progress, and we are indebted to the thousands of Greenpeace supporters who told Costco they wanted to buy sustainable seafood,” said Casson Trenor, senior markets campaigner for Greenpeace. “While there is still a long way to go, we are very pleased with the steps that Costco has taken and their ongoing commitments.”

Jeff Lyons, Costco SVP, was quoted in a Greenpeace press release as saying, “It is important that the items we offer our customers are those that we can continue to provide well into the future and to provide responsibly. Our policy will help us to continue to meet the demands of our customers, who look to us for high quality items at great value.”

In addition to vowing to take a leadership role within the aquaculture industry, Costco also said it will partner with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to examine its stores’ remaining wild-caught seafood choices to gauge how to transition to the most sustainable alternatives. The club store operator also said it is in the process of shifting to more sustainable sources of all kinds of tuna, including canned.

While Costco “proves they want to be a leader in ocean conservation,” said Greenpeace’s Trenor, “many other supermarkets continue to put the oceans in harm’s way due to their seafood policies.” As such, it will be interesting to see how Costco and other retail food competitors stack up in Greenpeace’s forthcoming fifth Supermarket Scorecard report that’s due to be released in April.

For its part, Greenpeace pledged to make sure that Costco follows through on its expanded sustainable seafood policies and continued improvement with “stewardship toward the oceans,” details of which are available by clicking here.

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