Canadian retailers lack adequate seafood traceability, NGO says

NGO SeaChoice’s fourth Seafood Progress report reveals stats on Canadian retailers’ social responsibility efforts.

Most Canadian retailers’ social responsibility commitments and actions continue to be inadequate and untraceable, according to NGO SeaChoice’s fourth Seafood Progress report.

Despite improvements made over the past year, only two of the eight major grocery retailers studied by SeaChoice label their seafood with all the components required for customers to make informed decisions, such as species’ scientific name, geographic origin, wild-caught versus farmed, and gear type or farming method, SeaChoice Supply Chain Analyst Dana Cleaveley told SeafoodSource.

In addition, three retailers continue to make no effort to support improvements in skipjack tuna management, she said.

None of the eight retailers have committed to only selling skipjack tuna that meets the highest bars for sustainability, such as being certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, recommended by Ocean Wise, or deemed a “Best Choice” by Seafood Watch, Cleaveley said. However, at the end of 2020, Walmart Canada met its commitment to source all private-label canned tuna from fisheries certified by MSC.

At the same time, the number of retailers that include all seafood they sell under their sustainability commitments has doubled, thanks to moves by Walmart Canada and Co-op, according the Vancouver, British Columbia-based non-governmental organization.

“The global pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the profitability of Canadian grocers. Retailers have more opportunity than ever to put at least as much emphasis on social responsibility and environmental sustainability as they do on profits,” Cleaveley said. “Retailers need to do more to meet their customers' expectations of legally and responsibly made products through active due diligence and effective traceability.” 

Four retailers fail to include canned or seafood brand products, such as High Liner and StarKist products, in their sustainability commitments.

“As a result, a significant amount of seafood these companies sell could be unsustainably harvested and breaking human rights laws,” SeaChoice said.

Cleaveley praised Buy-Low Foods, METRO, and Save-On-Foods for sending letters earlier this year to Canada’s federal government supporting development of an effective boat-to-plate traceability system for all seafood sold in Canada.

But more must be done to tackle human rights abuses in the seafood industry, SeaChoice said.

"The lack of this traceability makes it far too easy to support slavery and irresponsible fishing practices in seafood supply chains. Retailers have a large part to play in driving this regulation forward,” SeaChoice said.

Image courtesy of SeaChoice


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