Monday, July 20, 2009

"Traitor Joe's" Takes Heat for Sales of Endangered Fish

Traitor Joe's: That's the nickname Greenpeace has pasted on Trader Joe's because the stores sell red-list fish: fish caught in ways that harm ocean habitats or other creatures or whose numbers are so low they may become extinct.

Greenpeace decided to put on the pressure because the private owners behind the supermarket chain have not been willing to even disclose how and where they get their seafood. (According to a statement from Trader Joe's, company policy is never to participate in surveys.) So now you can go to a "Traitor Joe" website and send the chain a singing fish telegram or take other action in protest.

Greenpeace recently updated the scorecards that rate markets on their seafood practices, and Trader Joe's got an F.

That's because, says Greenpeace:
  • Trader Joe's has no sustainable seafood policy
  • Isn't working with fishing industry groups or others trying to promote sustainable practices
  • Doesn't label its products so consumers can understand what they're buying
  • And claims in its ads that it is buying in a sustainable fashion, even though it's selling orange roughy and other species whose survival is in question. (See my March blog about for more info on sustainable fish.)
A statement from Jon Basalone, Executive Vice President Marketing & Merchandising for Trader Joe's, says that "Hearing recent feedback, our goal is to offer seafood options that fit customer needs ranging from food safety and taste to concern over the environment." It goes on to say that the company will take into account in its purchasing decisions the fish recommendations of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The company further denies that it actually sells some of the "red-list" species that Greenpeace claims it does, although, in a backhanded attempt to say it is really doing a better job than its competitors, it admits to selling some : "Trader Joe's sells fewer items on that 'Red List' than the #1 ranked grocery retailer in their report." Nothing to be proud of, folks.

And if true, maybe Trader Joe's would have spared itself this public relations problem if it had cooperated with Greenpeace in the first place.

In the meantime, those of us who shop at Trader Joe's should take the chain at its word that it listens to its customers and speak up about the seafood on sale. Ditto for its competitors. Remember, as you shop, that federal law now requires supermarkets to label all seafood with its place of origin and method of catch. If you don't see that information, let the store manager know you've noticed and expect better of the store.

In today's world of growing scarcity, unfortunately, we now need to know which species have been over-fished and how others are caught. Otherwise, we'll come to the point where the fish we love to eat will have been loved out of existence. You can get educated quickly at the Monterey Bay Aquarium website.##

1 comment:

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