Giant Retailer Costco Stops Selling Imperiled Seafood Species

 After mounting pressure from the non-profit group, Greenpeace, Costco Wholesale Corporation, the ninth largest retailer in the world, released a new sustainable seafood policy in February.  The warehouse giant says it will stop selling about a dozen endangered fish.  Costco, based in Issaquah, Washington, released a three-page “Seafood and Sustainability” policy, posted on its website, stating that it would no longer sell fish “nearly universally identified as at great risk.”  This includes the following species:

  • Atlantic codcostco
  • Atlantic halibut      
  • Chilean sea bass               
  • Greenland halibut
  • Grouper
  • Monkfish
  • Orange Roughy
  • Redfish
  • Shark
  • Skates and rays
  • Swordfish
  • Blue fin tuna

Costco also said it would resume selling any of these fish unless they become certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the world’s leading certification and eco-labeling program for sustainable seafood.  While Greenpeace believes Costco’s pledge is not perfect, perhaps referring to the possibility that some species will return to the retailer’s aisles as MSC-certified which is considered too lax by some environmentalists, the group considers it a major step forward.

In July 2010, Costco partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) review the retailer’s sales of other wild-caught seafood and how to make the transition to more sustainable alternatives.  More specifically, Costco has gotten involved in WWF’s aquaculture projects such as the impact of shrimp aquaculture and shrimp trawling.  Costco currently obtains farmed shrimp from Thailand-based companies, and WWF is working with shrimp farmers, non-profits, academics, and others to develop global standards for shrimp farming. 

The retailer is also looking into selling more sustainable forms of tuna, especially canned tuna, according to Greenpeace.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the most respected sources of information on sustainable seafood, recommends that consumers avoid buying so-called “dolphin-safe” tuna because sea turtles, sharks, and juvenile tuna are often killed in the process.  The aquarium’s advice is to look for line-caught tuna, hard to find in the canned variety, or switch to canned salmon.

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  • Posted on March 9, 2011. Listed in:

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