Sustainable seafood movement advancing

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
March 14, 2009

The sustainable seafood movement has advanced significantly in the past decade, evolving from political cause to corporate ethic. But the movement is still in its infancy, and its progression depends on the ability of the seafood and conservation communities to work together, said panelists at Sunday's conference "Sustainability: Where to Get Answers" at the International Boston Seafood Show.
 
Merely a buzzword just a decade ago, sustainability has crossed into the mainstream.
 
"On the plane, people always ask me, ‘Which seafood should I eat [and] which seafood shouldn't I eat," said Steve Murawski, chief scientist at the National Marine Fisheries Service. "People are very engaged in this issue."
 
Seafood buyers, including big players such as Wal-Mart and the Compass Group, are implementing seafood purchasing policies to ensure the products they source come from a renewable resource and are harvested or raised in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
 
But such policies need to make business sense, said Tobias Aguirre, executive director of FishWise in Santa Cruz, Calif., which works directly with seafood buyers to help them assess the sustainability of their products, educate their staff and market their commitment to sustainability. Aguirre said two companies that he's working with - Central Coast Seafood, an Atascadero, Calif., seafood distributor, and Nugget Markets, a 10-store California grocery store chain - have watched their seafood sales grow since implementing sustainable seafood purchasing policies.
 
However, "a lot of companies are just not acknowledging that there's a problem" with unsustainable fishing and aquaculture," said Aguirre, which is preventing the sustainable seafood movement from reaching the next level.
 
"It's a long journey," said Heather Tausig, director of conservation at the New England Aquarium in Boston.
 
The aquarium works with Stop & Shop and Giant supermarket chains, which are owned by Ahold USA, and Darden Restaurants, parent company of Red Lobster, on sustainable seafood purchasing policies and recently began collaborating with Gorton's of Gloucester, Mass., and Orion Seafood International of Portsmouth, N.H.

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