Greenpeace Sustainability Crusade a Charade


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
March 26, 2008

The environmental and animal-rights community has maintained a constant presence in the seafood industry throughout the years, so the launch of yet another green campaign often goes unnoticed. Except when the operation is the brainchild of Greenpeace, perhaps the loosest cannon in the NGO (non-governmental organization) armada. The activist group is grabbing U.S. seafood retailers' attention, surveying them about their purchasing philosophies and urging them to limit procurement to what it deems are sustainable species. Sounds OK, until you see which ones they want off-limits.

Start with Alaska pollock. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has managed this enormous, multibillion-pound fishery successfully for years, to which the Marine Stewardship Council can attest; the London-based group first certified Alaska pollock as sustainable in 2005. While some alarm may be due over the 28 percent quota cut the NPFMC adopted for this year, but it was the type of measure that has made Alaska pollock a bountiful resource. Quotas are based on scientific research, like all of Alaska's fisheries.

The MSC certification program itself appears under attack. Chilean sea bass and New Zealand hoki are on Greenpeace's "Red Fish" list, despite certain fisheries for these species earning MSC endorsements. If sustainability is the overarching goal of the Greenpeace campaign, then where is the science to back up its claims? What do they know that the MSC doesn't?

With no universally accepted definition for sustainability, the term is left open to interpretation. It looks like Greenpeace simply took the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch brochure, moved pollock to the "avoid" list and called it a day.

According to the National Fisheries Institute of McLean, Va., 47 percent of the seafood that Americans consume would be considered unsustainable by Greenpeace's standard, including the majority of the shrimp supply, much of it farmed. NFI is reaching out to retailers with helpful responses for customers who will no doubt be confused by Greenpeace's misguided message.

This campaign is more about threatening executives with bad publicity than conserving marine resources. And as with Oceana's movement to force retailers to post mercury warnings in their seafood departments, Greenpeace's advice is better left alone.

Thank you,
James Wright
Assistant Editor
SeaFood Business

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