Fresh Seafood Trends: Kroger, Delhaize Embrace Earth-friendly Aquaculture Practices

Sustainable seafood sourcing is moving to the forefront for a variety of supermarket companies, including The Kroger Co., which has made the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification for farmed seafood a key element of its seafood procurement policy, and Delhaize America, whose seven banner groups will soon require suppliers to verify that products come from sources managed for sustainability and encourage local sourcing.

Cincinnati-based Kroger, which operates some 2,400 stores and began its partnership with the GAA in 2009, now requires its seafood suppliers to source product from BAP-certified aquaculture facilities, and will soon require that the BAP seal appear on its private label shrimp, tilapia and channel catfish.

Kroger joins an expanding list of retailers, both within the United States and internationally, that support BAP certification.

“Kroger — and all those who utilize the BAP program — are to be applauded, as they are really making a difference in the sustainability of aquaculture on a global scale,” said Wally Stevens, executive director of the St. Louis-based GAA, noting that his group will continue to work with the nation’s top-ranked grocery chain as its internal programs evolve and BAP adds news species.

Meanwhile, Delhaize’s family of supermarkets — Hannaford, Sweetbay, Bottom Dollar Food, and Food Lion’s family of banners, consisting Food Lion, Bloom, Harveys and Reid’s — will require its seafood suppliers to verify that their products come from sustainably managed sourcing for all fresh, frozen and packaged fish and shellfish alike by March 31, 2011.

“We want our shoppers to have confidence that seafood they buy from us is from fisheries that are viable and maintained for the future,” noted George Parmenter, a corporate responsibility manager for Salisbury, N.C.-based Delhaize America, part of Brussels-based retail conglomerate Delhaize Group. “The health of fisheries is important to us as a retailer, both for the long-term product supply and for reducing the environmental impacts of products we sell. Our company is committed to operating responsibly, and our new program reinforces this commitment.”

Delhaize America developed the program in close partnership with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), a Portland-based nonprofit marine science center, through a detailed management plan featuring the following components:

—Developing plans to replenish stock sizes within a specific time frame if stock size levels fall below target levels
—Providing sufficient data to determine appropriate harvest levels or practices
—Adopting monitoring and compliance measures to ensure harvest levels are maintained within acceptable limits
—Maintaining enforcement policies to ensure harvesters follow regulations, and to prevent illegal practices and unreported harvest

Suppliers of farm-raised seafood must also obtain BAP certification, which ensures that the item’s production doesn’t have an adverse effect on communities, workers, the environment or human health through the improper use of chemicals or drugs.

Another major component of Delhaize’s policy is the requirement that all seafood be fully traceable to the port of landing or farm, which will allow all Delhaize America supermarkets to have immediate access to information on where the product was harvested, thereby enabling the company to confirm claims regarding sustainable harvest.

Delhaize America’s program will additionally reward seafood partners that implement sustainable harvesting practices as strategies to minimize accidental catch of fish not destined for market, or to prevent damage to marine habitats. The company’s continuing quality assurance processes throughout its supply chain are also part of the initiative.

As the first step in rolling out the policy, all of Delhaize America’s 1,600 stores are gathering data from their seafood suppliers and evaluating that information with GMRI. By March 31, 2011, all seafood products sold in the company’s stores must be in compliance with the policy or show a clear action plan to attain compliance.

“The new policy encourages ongoing improvement in sustainability practices and promotes local fisheries,” said Parmenter. “Our customers prefer local seafood, and we believe buying local provides fresh food, supports our local economies, and reduces environmental impacts from transporting seafood from longer distances. Through this work, we will ensure that the local seafood we’ve always sourced for customers will be healthy for the local environment and around for future generations to enjoy.”

The seafood sustainability policy will be posted on the Bloom, Bottom Dollar Food, Food Lion, Hannaford and Sweetbay Web sites.

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