Red Listing the Red List

The environmental community doesn't always see eye to eye when it comes to advising seafood buyers and consumers about what environmentally unfriendly species to avoid. Greenpeace is urging U.S. and Canadian retailers to stop selling species on its "red list" as part of its sustainable seafood campaign, which it kicked into overdrive this week.

But some NGOs are at odds with three of the 22 species Greenpeace says are unsustainably fished or farmed. Greenpeace's list, released Tuesday, ranked U.S. retailers according to their sustainable seafood purchasing policies. The three species - Alaska pollock, New Zealand hoki and South Georgia toothfish, or Chilean sea bass - are certified as well managed and sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

While applauding Greenpeace for raising awareness of sustainable seafood among buyers and consumers, NGOs like Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, Monterey Bay Aquarium and, of course, the MSC say the red list undermines the progress the MSC has made since its inception in 1997.

"We're in complete and total disagreement. We continue to be confident in the MSC standard and certification process," says Brad Ack, regional director-Americas for the MSC. "The list doesn't stack up to the rigor and credibility of our program."

Monterey Bay Aquarium defended the MSC in a statement. "Unlike Greenpeace, we and other members of the Conservation Alliance for Sustainable Seafood recognize and support the work of the [MSC]," says Ken Peterson, the aquarium's communications director. "We recommend that consumers look for and purchase sustainable seafood products with the blue [MSC] eco-label."

The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, a consortium of 14 U.S. and Canadian NGOs formed in May to help companies develop and implement sustainable seafood purchasing policies, also distanced itself from Greenpeace, clarifying that it was not involved in compiling the list. It added that some retailers are already moving in the right direction, though more work is necessary to ensure a long-term global seafood supply.

Sometimes, even constituents of the same organization don't see eye to eye - Alaska pollock is on the U.S. version of Greenpeace's red list, but it's mysteriously absent from the Canadian version, which comprises just 15 species.

Greenpeace has helped to raise awareness of sustainable seafood among buyers and especially consumers, who are just beginning to catch on to the movement. But it is only adding to the confusion by "red listing" three species that most in the environmental community agree are well managed and sustainable.

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business


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