Fishing For Trouble?

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Fishing For Trouble?


Why in the world would any retailer voluntarily complete an arbitrary survey — free of transparent methodology — with a predetermined outcome?

NFI warns retailers not to get carted away by free-flowing info when it comes to sustainable-seafood 'report cards.'

Surveys are a tried-and-true PR tactic intended to capture media attention. Greenpeace’s annual “rank and spank” supermarket scorecard on seafood sustainability is no different.

In coming weeks, major retailers will be asked to provide the international environmental organization with in-depth answers to more than 50 loaded questions about the sustainability of their seafood procurement programs, and are likely to include shelf-stable tuna. As in years past, retailers that complete the survey are privy to the results only when they’re published in Greenpeace’s annual publication Carting Away the Oceans (CATO).

The alarmist title of the report alone should raise red flags, but also consider this: Never in the survey's five-year history has a retailer scored better than 65 points on a 100-point scale. And last year's edition, CATO V, actually told consumers: "Eat less fish. Reducing seafood consumption now can help lessen the pressure on our oceans..."

Think about that for a minute: In return for providing activists with sensitive business information, Greenpeace will accuse retail grocers of "carting away the oceans," give these reputable companies a D-minus at best, and then tell their shoppers to buy less fresh, frozen and shelf-stable seafood. Why in the world would any retailer voluntarily complete an arbitrary survey — free of transparent methodology — with a predetermined outcome?

End the Extortion

Greenpeace's five-year track record of extorting information from retail grocers must come to an end, but that's ultimately up to retailers. By completing Greenpeace's survey, retailers openly open themselves up to the activist organization's subjective, nonscientific evaluation of their businesses, while simultaneously acknowledging that Greenpeace is a credible and qualified voice in the discourse. Greenpeace has never invested one dollar or one hour to improve sustainable fishing practices, and it shuns the work of highly reputable organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), as this quote from p. 22 of CATO V makes clear: "Although we note that Whole Foods has incorporated the use of certification bodies into its seafood sustainability policy, Greenpeace does not endorse any seafood certification program, including the Marine Stewardship Council."

Greenpeace isn't teaming with (let alone acknowledging) third-party experts and conservationists, because it's not interested in solutions or science. This scorecard campaign is nothing more than a ploy to get media attention and appeal for donor dollars. After all, Greenpeace is no longer a ragtag group of idealistic college kids. It's a global operation as big and as complex as the businesses it targets. Today, Greenpeace has a board of directors, VPs, attorneys, marketing and media departments, and a salesforce. It costs nearly $1 million dollars a day to keep this enterprise afloat, and that income requires a relentless fundraising effort.

Retailers can strip Greenpeace of its opportunity to "rank and spank" grocers by simply declining to participate. More background on why Greenpeace isn't a legitimate voice in any serious discourse about seafood sustainability can be found online at

There's a lot we can do to protect our ocean's resources so seafood is readily available for generations to come. Filling out a Greenpeace survey, however, isn't one of them.

Gavin Gibbons is director of media relations for the Washington-based National Fisheries Institute (NFI), whose members represent the seafood industry's allied and diverse trading partners. He may be reached at [email protected]