Fresh Seafood Trends:<br />Retailers Chart New Seafood Sourcing in Wild, Sustainable Directions

In advance of the prime Lenten seafood selling season, two of the nation’s leading retailers have set a new sourcing course for the seafood they sell in their stores.

Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway has signed on to work with Fish Wise, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based nonprofit that works to ensure a more sustainable seafood supply. As the plan unfolds, Safeway will embark on a comprehensive eco-friendly seafood policy for its 1,700-plus supermarkets, while it casts off monkfish, grouper and Atlantic/Gulf red snapper in the interim, until the species’ sparse stocks recover.

Target, meanwhile, is also changing the salmon-buying policy for its 1,700-plus stores by declining to carry farmed salmon. After consultation with the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, which rates Alaskan wild salmon as a “best choice,” all Target branded fresh, frozen or smoked salmon will now be wild-caught.

Last fall, Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s also declared its intentions to use Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” program to help with its seafood-purchasing decisions.

Safeway’s new partnership with Fish Wise is aimed at strengthening earlier commitments to environmentally responsible seafood by requiring suppliers to participate in sustainability assessments and sourcing improvement plans, training staff on the company’s sustainability policy, and providing science-based information on sustainable seafood to its customers.

“We hope this partnership will lead to a more sustainable product selection for our customers as well as improved transparency with our suppliers, and ultimately, healthy oceans and freshwater ecosystems for future generations,” said Jim Bluming, Safeway VP, seafood marketing.

By deploying a detailed sourcing assessment on behalf of Safeway, FishWise will prioritize suppliers and products for environmental improvement plans. In time, the national grocer will implement a traceability system to screen out suppliers of seafood products not meeting its new sustainable seafood policy.

“We believe Safeway is an industry leader in establishing responsible business practices, and we are eager to demonstrate how this can lead to verifiable conservation gains,” said Tobias Aguirre, executive director of FishWise.

As for the Target/Monterey Bay Aquarium alliance, the Minneapolis-based retailer said it’s taking the “important step” of stripping farmed salmon from its stock in view of the potential negative impacts many salmon farms wreak on the environment as a result of pollution, chemicals, parasites and non-native farmed fish that escape from salmon farms, and that affect the natural habitat and native salmon in the surrounding areas.

“Target strives to be a responsible steward of the environment, while also providing our guests with the highest-quality food choices,” said Greg Duppler, Target’s SVP of merchandising. “Our guests now have an array of sustainable seafood choices at great prices.”

Target’s decision to source sustainable, wild-caught salmon will “have a real impact in the marketplace – and ultimately, on the health of our oceans,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Greenpeace applauded Target’s decision to replace farmed salmon with wild Alaskan salmon. “The company’s decision to address this issue represents an incredible willingness to challenge old paradigms in favor of sound science and environmental preservation, as well as provide real market value to its guests,” said Casson Trenor, Greenpeace’s senior markets campaigner. “We have no doubt that the leadership by Target will set a new standard for the seafood industry, one we hope is echoed by other retailers.”
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