Carting away our patience


Steven Hedlund

Published on
July 6, 2009

Greenpeace is relentless. Three times in the past year the environmental activist organization has published a report ranking U.S. retailers’ sustainable seafood purchasing policies. The third installment of “Carting Away the Oceans” arrived last Tuesday. This time, seven retailers earned a passing grade (a score of 40 or higher out of a 100) and 13 received a big fat F, an improvement from last time when only four retailers passed.

Greenpeace followed the report by demonstrating outside San Francisco-area Trader Joe’s stores on Friday, singling out the 324-store chain due to its nationwide presence and poor ranking (17th with a score of 10.25). Activists dressed in orange roughy costumes and Trader Joe’s signature Hawaiian shirts distributed information on sustainable seafood and collected signatures for a petition.

What’s more, Greenpeace launched a Web site,, featuring a cartoon pirate named Traitor Joe and urging supporters to ask Trader Joe’s to stop selling species it claims are caught or farmed in an environmentally irresponsible manner, including orange roughy and Chilean sea bass. Traitor Joe is also a social media hound — he has his own Twitter and Facebook pages and blog at

Amid the information onslaught — Traitor Joe has been the subject of more than 60 “tweets” over the past week — Greenpeace has yet to furnish the formula it uses to score retailers’ sustainable seafood purchasing policies. Greenpeace USA spokesman John Hocevar offered this explanation to SeafoodSource: “It enables us to improve [the methodology] over time, and to make it as consistent as possible with reports issued by our international colleagues. It also helps us keep the focus on the big picture rather than getting too far into the weeds, e.g. ‘Why did you give us two points and not three?’”

Trader Joe’s has ignored Greenpeace’s questionnaires, replying only once in March 2008 when Jon Basalone, the company’s senior VP of marketing, said, “We simply listen to our customers” when determining what products to sell.

But if Greenpeace expects Trader Joe’s to be transparent about its sustainable seafood purchasing policies, it needs to be clear, too. Until Greenpeace publishes its scoring formula, industry skeptics will take “Carting Away the Oceans” with an ocean’s worth of salt.

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