Canada Safeway has topped Greenpeace’s annual ranking of supermarkets’ sustainable seafood practices.
The Western Canadian chain, bought by Sobeys last year, received a 74 out of 100 score from the environmental group for its commitment to seafood sustainability.
Loblaw, with a 73% score, came in No. 2 and Metro, with 67%, was third.
Greenpeace said Safeway had begun to offer its customers more sustainable options on big sellers such as canned tuna and farmed salmon.
Safeway has also vowed not to source seafood from proposed ocean sanctuaries in the western and central Pacific Ocean, where most tuna is caught, and to avoid fish caught in the proposed Ross Sea ocean sanctuary.
In the last ranking of Canadian supermarkets by Greenpeace, in 2012, Overwaitea Food Group came out on top.
This year, Overwaitea was ranked fourth, followed by Walmart in fifth, Federated Co-operatives and Sobeys (tied for sixth) and Costco in the eighth and last spot.
With a 38% score, Costco was the only supermarket to received a failing grade from Greenpeace.
Sarah King, Greenpeace Canada’s oceans campaign co-ordinator, said most supermarket chains are making good progress sourcing more sustainable seafood products.
“However, if they really want to meet their commitments they are going to need to get stricter and more involved in improving the unsustainable fisheries and farms that they source from or start making harder sourcing decisions about which suppliers to move away from… Promotion of unsustainable seafood also needs to stop. It undermines their sustainability efforts.”
Greenpeace also urged Sobeys to follow Canada Safeway’s lead on seafood sustainability.
This year’s ranking was issued in a report “Protecting Our Oceans is Everyone’s Business: Ranking Supermarkets on Seafood Sustainability.”
Greenpeace used the report’s publication to call on Canada’s supermarket industry to support the creation of ocean sanctuaries and to stop sourcing seafood from proposed or existing sanctuaries.
Greenpeace wants to create a global network of ocean sanctuaries covering 40% of the world’s oceans to allow marine life to recover from decades of overfishing and to adapt to climate change.
“As major buyers and sellers of seafood, big retailers could help push governments to act faster to protect our oceans,” King said.
Greenpeace says that only three per cent of the world’s oceans are currently protected. That number falls to one per cent in Canadian marine waters.
A poll done earlier this year by Statcom for Greenpeace found 74% of Canadians want at least 10% of oceans to be turned into sanctuaries.
Several grocery chains, including Metro and Walmart Canada, have expressed support for the creation of marine reserves but Greenpeace said no retailer has “fully acted” on that support.
Greenpeace urged Canada’s big supermarket chains to use their clout to back the creation of sanctuaries.
“Retailers have the ear of their consumers, the government and their suppliers, so if they start talking about supporting more ocean sanctuaries, people will listen,” King said.
Greenpeace’s push to create ocean sanctuaries got a boost last month from Barack Obama. The U.S. president announced plans to create the world’s largest ocean preserve by expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to more than 2 million square kilomketres, almost nine times its current size encircling an array of remote islands in the south-central Pacific, between Hawaii and American Samoa
Most of Canada’s largest grocery chains have initiated seafood sustainability policies over the last few years.
Perhaps the most ambitious has been Loblaw, which in 2009 pledged to source all of the seafood in products it sells–from fresh fish to seafood in pet food–from sustainable sources by the end of 2013.
Greenpeace said that 88% of seafood product sales in the fresh, frozen and canned categories at Loblaw met the retailer’s sustainability guidelines as of last December and that Loblaw is still committed to hitting its 100% target.
“As Canada’s leading food retailer and biggest buyer and seller of seafood, [Loblaw] bears the brunt of the responsibility for ensuring Canadian consumers have access to sustainable seafood. It appears that Loblaw continues to take that responsibility seriously,” Greenpeace wrote in its report.
“Though Loblaw and Greenpeace may not see eye to eye on certification schemes, the company has certainly worked hard to seek eco-label seafood alternatives for red-graded species in all categories,” it added.
Below is the complete list of Canadian supermarket rankings by Greenpeace during the last six years.