Bowing to Pressure, Trader Joe's Adopts Sustainable Seafood Policy

OAKLAND, CA — Trader Joe’s will only sell seafood from sustainable sources by the end of 2012, following a months-long Greenpeace campaign that dubbed the retailer “Traitor Joe.”

Trader Joe’s vowed to remove red-listed fish in all formats from its shelves, including frozen, fresh and canned seafood items. Trader Joe’s will also begin adding more information to its seafood labels, including catch or production method and species’ Latin names. Seafood labels are currently required to list country of origin and whether the product is wild or farm raised.

The retailer said it would use its considerable influence within the industry to push for change in the supply community, and partner with science-based groups to establish definitions and parameters for its sustainable procurement goal.

Greenpeace took Trader Joe’s to task for its seafood procurement practices, even launching a mock website called “Traitor Joe’s.” In its most recent report ranking the nation’s top 20 retailers on their seafood sourcing policies, Trader Joe’s came in in 17th place.

Greenpeace claimed in the June 2009 report that spot-checks of some Trader Joe’s outlets found the company was selling red-listed species such as Chilean sea bass and orange roughy, but Trader Joe’s said last week it stopped selling Chilean sea bass in 2005. The company stopped selling red snapper this month and phased out orange roughy sales in July.

The NGO also complained in “Carting Away the Oceans: How Grocery Stores are Emptying the Seas” that the retailer failed to respond to Greenpeace outreach efforts, lacked a sustainable seafood policy, was not affiliated with any third-party conservation or fishing industry groups, and used misleading seafood labeling.

Trader Joe’s new policy seems to address these concerns, making it highly likely it will move up the Greenpeace ranks in the upcoming update. According to Greenpeace, additional moves by Target and Safeway will likely shake up the annual rankings even further.

Wegmans, Ahold USA, Whole Foods, Target and Safeway placed in the report’s Top 5 last year. Meijer, Price Chopper and H.E. Butt rounded out the bottom of the roster after Trader Joe’s.

Despite the bad press Greenpeace tried to generate for Trader Joe’s procurement policy, consumers tend to view the company in a different light. A 2009 GreenBiz.com report found the company to be among the greenest brands from a consumer perspective, even achieving a “Standout” distinction.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user IK's World Trip.