Greenpeace Gigs Trader Joe's on Sustainable Seafood

Greenpeace Gigs Trader Joe's on Sustainable Seafood

Whatever you think of the people at Greenpeace,
you’ve got to admit they are environmentalists with a sense of humor.

Recently, Greenpeace published a scorecard that ranks supermarket
chains on the sustainability of their seafood. It’s a serious analysis,
intended to guide shoppers to those stores that recognize their
responsibility to protect the oceans, and to pressure those stores that
don’t. In the argot of activists, this is known as a “name ‘em and
shame ‘em” strategy.

Then Greenpeace went a step further. It ridiculed Trader Joe’s, the
national supermarket chain with the lowest ranking, by creating a
website called Traitor Joe’s
(“Your one-stop shop for ocean destruction”), producing an amusing
video (at and sending protesters dressed
as Orange Roughy to a Trader Joe’s outlet in San Francisco, calling on
the company to clean up its act.

Greenpeace’s Traitor Joe.

Courtesy of Greenpeace
While these tactics might not be well suited for, say, the World Resources Institute,
the diversity of the environmental movement is a wonderful thing.
Activists at groups like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network or
Friends of the Earth function, in essence, as the business development
arms of the more collaborative, mainstream groups like the
Environmental Defense Fund or Conservation International. Companies
under  attack from Greenpeace or RAN often ask EDF or CI to help them
dig out of trouble.

I didn’t write much about Greenpeace while my wife, Karen Schneider,
worked there, but she has since moved on (to become a vice president
for communications at the National Women’s Law Center),
so I feel more comfortable reporting on Greenpeace. The Greenpeace gang
can be aggressive—they oppose the Waxman-Markey climate change bill
because, they say, it’s too weak to deal effectively with the threat of
global warming—but to the surprise of some, they have also collaborated
effectively with companies like Coca-Cola and Unilever, around the
issue of HFC-free refrigerants. And they do solid research.

Greenpeace’s seafood study, called Carting Away the Oceans: How Grocery Stores are Emptying the Seas,
is worth a look.  It ranks 20 supermarket companies and assesses their
seafood policies (if any), initiatives they are taking to promote
sustainability (again, if any), their approach to labeling, and their
sales of so-called “red list” fish, meaning  fish that Greenpeace deems
imperiled or those that come from fisheries that harm sea turtles,
dolphins, seals, sea lions, or other marine mammals. Red list fish
include, among others, Atlantic Cod, Atlantic haddock, Atlantic salmon,
Atlantic sea scallops, Chilean sea bass, grouper, monkfish, ocean
quahog, Orange Roughy, red snapper, redfish, skates, South Atlantic
albacore tuna, swordfish, tropical shrimp and yellowfin tuna. (For
another look at what seafood to buy and why, see the Seafood Watch list published by the Monterey Bay Acquarium.)

Fortunately, there is some good news in Greenpeace’s scorecard, its
third since 2008. More than half of the  supermarket chains in the U.S.
have made some progress in increasing the sustainability of their
seafood operations, the group says. The Wegman’s chain received
Greenpeace’s top ranking followed by Ahold USA, while Whole Foods
dropped to third place from its first-place finish last December.
Wal-Mart ranks No. 7. On the plus side, the report says:

"Greenpeace is delighted to announce that several of the
companies included in this report have not only shown great
improvement, but continue to move toward being the first large-scale
“green” seafood retailers in the United States. Interestingly, each
store has found avenues within its unique business model to move toward
a more sustainable way of sourcing and selling seafood. Examples of
this kind of innovation are evident in the actions of retailers like
Wegmans, Ahold, Whole Foods, and Target, each of which has made great
strides in various areas."

But the report also chides the laggards, saying:

"…there remain nine retailers that have made no visible
effort whatsoever to increase the sustainability of their seafood
operations. These industry laggards continue to wreak havoc on our
environment, with no apparent regard for the health of our ecosystems
or the values of their customers.

At this point, Greenpeace has little choice but to call out these
gross offenders for who they are, and to strongly urge all consumers to
avoid buying seafood from the following retailers: Aldi, Costco, Giant
Eagle, H. E. B., Meijer, Price Chopper, Publix, Trader Joe’s, and

Thus, the protest below at a Trader Joe’s in San Francisco:

Greenpeace protestors dressed as Orange Roughy at a Trader Joe’s. Photo (c) Kim White/Greenpeace.

Courtesy of Greenpeace

Photo of Atlantic salmon and other fish — CC licensed by Flickr user Eric Kilby.