Assessing Seafood Retailers’ Progress Helps Consumers and Industry
A warm summer day, a cold drink and fish on the grill. It doesn't get much better. But how do you know if your fish is sustainable? It can be a challenge—especially considering SeaChoice found just 11 per cent of seafood available in Canada in 2016 was rated as a "best choice." Many retailers have sustainable seafood policies, but how good are they?
To help consumers choose wisely, SeaChoice used to rank seafood using a traffic light system—red (avoid), yellow (some concerns) and green (best choice). U.S.-based Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program and Canada's Ocean Wise continue to offer similar rankings. SeaChoice recently launched its Seafood Progress online resource to shift the focus to retailers, but with consumers in mind.
Although all major Canadian retailers have made a commitment to sustainable seafood, their products and definitions of "sustainable" vary, which can make consumer choices difficult. Using information from retailers and public sources, SeaChoice—a Living Oceans Society, Ecology Action Centre and David Suzuki Foundation partnership—is applying 22 performance indicators to assess sustainable seafood commitments made by Buy-Low Foods, Costco, Co-op, Loblaws, Metro, Save-On-Foods, Safeway, Sobeys and Walmart Canada. The indicators are based on "six steps that form the vision for sustainable seafood developed by environmental groups across North America."
According to the Seafood Progress Year 1 report, "The average assessment scores show that while most retailers have detailed policies and are collecting important information about the seafood they source, they can do a better job increasing transparency by making that information public and supporting improvements to fisheries and fish farms." In other words, they may have policies, but without transparency, it's difficult to know if they're living up to them.
On average, retailers did well on three of the six steps: Make a public commitment, collect data and source responsibly. Some needed improvement on two steps: Be transparent and educate. All scored lower on the sixth: Support improvements. The last is important in bringing about changes on the water. "If retailers are going to sell some of the more unsustainable seafood products available in Canada, they should be taking action to improve fisheries and farm practices," the report says.
The assessments will help retailers strengthen their policies, give them more opportunities to work with suppliers to improve fisheries and aquaculture practices, and help consumers make better choices. As well as environmental issues, SeaChoice also analyzed retailers' social responsibility commitments and recommends that most retailers "take action to confirm that no human rights abuses or labour violations are taking place in their supply chain."
SeaChoice recommends retailers label products with "the species' scientific (Latin) name, country of origin, whether it is wild or farmed, and the gear type or farming method," but found that only one retailer, Metro, included such comprehensive information. It might seem like a lot to put on a label, but the European Union requires all retailers to meet these standards.
To illustrate the need for comprehensive labelling, including the scientific name, SeaChoice found more than 200 rockfish species can be sold as snapper and 58 percent of rockfish sampled from Canadian retailers was mislabelled.
Seafood Progress is designed in part to encourage retailers to live up to and improve their seafood procurement policies, and in doing so improve production practices overall. But it also allows consumers to click on a particular retailer to learn how ambitious its environmental sustainability, social responsibility and traceability aims are, and how well it's meeting its commitments.
Oceans and the life they support face many threats, from pollution and climate change to ever-increasing ship traffic and noise. Aquaculture has the potential to take some pressure off wild seafood stocks, but it also brings its own challenges, including escapes, pollution and parasite and disease transmission to wild fish.
Choosing fish, shellfish and seaweed products that don't add to the threats is made difficult by the many factors that determine sustainability. With programs like Seafood Progress, consumers can support retailers that follow best practices, while retailers can demonstrate corporate responsibility and help the seafood industry progress toward sustainability.
If we manage fisheries and aquaculture operations properly, we can continue to enjoy these important food sources for generations to come.
Dr. David Suzuki: Environmentalism Is a Way of Being, Not a Discipline https://t.co/R5QPLC8USm @GreenpeaceUK @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1506937809.0
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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