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National Fisheries Institute Blasts Greenpeace Retail Seafood Report

In the wake of the release of Greenpeace's 2015 Carting Away the Oceans (CATO) report – which annually ranks supermarkets on their efforts to safeguard both the oceans and seafood industry workers – the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) is once again condeming the study as "subjective and hopelessly flawed," while characterizing it "first and foremost a fundraising tool" to garner support for its "dangerous ulterior agenda" cloaked in "inference and insinuation."

NFI's full statement appears later in this story, which will first examine key highlights of Greenpeace's ninth retail seafood exam, which profiles 25 supermarket companies – 80 percent of which received passing scores overall. The advocacy group's key message this year calls on retailers to "do their part to protect both the oceans and the workers that provide seafood," in light of continuing mounting concerns over slavery and human rights abuses in the seafood industry.

“Investigations continue to reveal that slavery and human rights abuses are widespread problems in the global seafood industry," said Greenpeace's David Pinsky, senior oceans campaigner. “Ultimately, the buck stops with the supermarkets that sell seafood associated with forced labor or human rights abuses, and it’s simply unacceptable that none have made it a priority.”

No Shore Thing

Whole Foods, Wegmans, Hy-Vee and Safeway ranked as the top four retailers overall in this year's CATO study, earning marks in the “good” category. Among other positive steps Greenpeace credits the four chains with taking includes Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and human rights abuses through policies, political advocacy, and participation in industry- and NGO-led conversations to identify solutions.

However, the advocacy group said "all retailers must strengthen their efforts and urgently address this global problem," including Southeastern Grocers, Roundy’s, Publix, A&P and Save Mart, all of which finished in the red “fail” category in the ranking

The CATO report calls out "five ways to help the oceans at your grocery store," including:

1. Know the facts by visiting to learn the truth about your  favorite supermarkets and what these companies must to do improve.

2. Speak your mind. Join Greenpeace Greenwire to connect with volunteers in your area and invite your community to take action with you. Bring your friends and tell your grocer that you want them to only sell sustainable, socially responsible seafood. Demand to know the truth behind your seafood options.

3. Demand that your seafood is not connected to human rights abuses. Tell your grocer that you want every person around the globe working to bring seafood to our tables to be treated fairly. Ask the manager how their company is addressing growing concerns about slavery, labor abuse, and illegal fishing.

4. Vote with your dollar. Reward grocers that are taking it upon themselves to make sustainable choices. Only purchase sustainable seafood and let the team behind the counter know you appreciate it.

5. Eat less fish. Today’s demand for seafood far outstrips what can be delivered from sustainable sources. Reducing seafood consumption now can help lessen the pressure on our oceans, ensuring fish for the future.

Something's Fishy to NFI

Not surprisingly, NFI vigorously begs to differ with the propensity of CATO's findings, particularly as it pertains to Greenpeace's open call for Americans to eat less seafood. "This not only destroys whatever shreds of credibility Greenpeace had left, but puts its fringe activists at odds with just about every medical and nutritional expert in world including the  Food and Drug Administration," said Lynsee, NFI's communications manager.

"It’s one thing to advocate for misguided shopping practices, but when it actively abets an ongoing public health crisis that is impairing fetal cognitive development and contributing to tens of thousands of preventable deaths each year, Greenpeace is crossing a dangerous line," noted Fowler, who added that the remainder of the 52-page report "consists of the same kind of unsupported and ideologically motivated reasoning we’ve come to expect from Greenpeace. The document purports to rank seafood retailers according to objective empirical standards (right down to the decimal point), but provides zero explanation on how scores are actually calculated. This is especially ironic, considering 'transparency' is one of the criteria on which retailers are judged, a value Greenpeace appears to support only selectively."

NFI's spokeswoman continued: "Where Greenpeace does give readers breadcrumbs about its methodology, it openly contradicts itself. Consider, for instance, that the 'report' essentially admits that Greenpeace’s seafood 'Red List' is useless. The list is 'not comprehensive' while at the same time fish appearing on it can be sourced in a 'responsible' manner, by the group’s own admission. In other words, if a fish is not on the list it can still be bad, and if it is on the list it can still be good."

Similarly, said Fowler, "In virtually the same breath, the 'report' goes from urging retailers to source from Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) to saying that sourcing from FIPs just isn’t good enough. As anyone who has ever tried to engage Greenpeace on seafood sustainability knows, nothing is ever good enough. That’s why they have refused to take part in the invaluable sustainability work of the scientists, fishery experts, and environmental stakeholders at the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation."

The CATO report, per NFI, also "editorializes on labor practices without noting that our members do not and will not tolerate labor abuses or unfair practice, either inside their companies and or among their suppliers and partners."

Further, "Retailers are starting to realize the futility of dealing with the strong-arm tactics and capricious standards of Greenpeace, and have wisely stopped participating. There is simply no upside to negotiating with activists who are happy to rake companies over the coals whether they cooperate or not," said Fowler. "Worst of all, even as Greenpeace unscientifically and arbitrarily ranks retailers for their practices, it refuses to conduct environmental or economic impact studies of its own preferred fishery policies — perhaps because they know the methods they favor would hurt both the environment and ordinary American consumers."

Retailers' Support of Bering Sea Canyons

As for other findings of CATO, the report also looked at retailers’ support for protecting canyons in Alaksa's Bering Sea, which is one of the most ecologically rich and commercially productive regions in the world, providing over half of the seafood caught in the U.S. This year, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant Eagle, Costco, Roundy’s and Southeastern Grocers urged the government to protect the canyons, which to date brings the number of retailers which have done so to 11.

The report also examined the canned tuna sourcing of the 25 retailers. Since Greenpeace’s last report, Costco and Target introduced their own brands of ocean safe canned tuna, and Giant Eagle has developed a more sustainable canned tuna sourcing policy. Larger retailers like Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons (now Albertsons-Safeway), Publix, Delhaize and Meijer do not offer their customers ocean safe tuna through their house brands.

On Saturday, July 25, Greenpeace activists will hold a day of action at Walmart stores across the country. The activists will engage customers and demand that the world’s largest retailer clean up its act on sustainable, socially responsible seafood.

To view the entire ranking and read the report, click here.

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