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The Green Life: Toward Sustainable Seafood

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July 08, 2009

Toward Sustainable Seafood

Sustainableabalone As a nation, we consume nearly 5 billion pounds of seafood per year. That’s about $16 billion worth of influence that consumers can hold over the seafood industry, for good or for bad.

To help seafood-lovers make a positive impact with their dollars, several organizations have sorted and distilled the sea of available information into handy references about ocean-friendly species and suppliers.

•     Supermarket Scorecard: Greenpeace recently issued its third annual seafood sustainability report card on the performance of 20 U.S. supermarket chains. Unfortunately, none of the supermarkets aced this test -- the highest scorers received only passing grades. Of the largest chains, Whole Foods and Target acheived some of the best scores, while Publix, Winn-Dixie and Trader Joe’s flunked. Greenpeace was so unsatisfied with Trader Joe’s performance that it launched a campaign and website, called Traitor Joe, to protest the company’s unsustainable seafood practices.

To grade the supermarkets, Greenpeace looked at existing sustainable seafood policies, any responsible initiatives undertaken, the transparency of the companies' labeling, and which of 22 “red-listed” fish species the supermarkets are selling. Trader Joe’s, for instance, sells 15 of the 22 fish that Greenpeace has highlighted as particularly unsustainable.

•    Sorting the Seafood: Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch provides a wealth of information for consumers about how to buy fish with the ocean’s health in mind.

Its extensive seafood guide rates marine food from "Best Choice" to "Avoid," as well as providing alternatives to bad choices and general information about how the product is fished.

•    Seafood Resources: The Seafood Choices Alliance seeks to promote a market for ocean-friendly seafood. It provides this list of resources, ranging from where to buy eco-friendly fish to sustainability guides to scientific data. 

--Jamie Hansen

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