Fish Tale: Does Trader Joe's Sell Endangered Seafood?
|Photo credit: Greenpeace.org|
|Fish R Us|
The source of Walpow's angst is the Greenpeace USA-spun blog, Traitor Joe's, a look-alike site mimicking Trader's Joe's own Web page, but which accuses Trader Joe's of "greenwashing" to project an eco-friendly image while selling endangered sea food. A link connects readers with a recently issued Greenpeace scorecard, which ranks TJ's No. 17 (out of 20 stores selling seafood) for being "the largest US grocer operating on a nation-wide scale that refuses to substantively respond to Greenpeace inquiries regarding its seafood sustainability policies and practices."
Specifically, Greenpeace blasts TJ's for selling "red list" species such as orange roughy, Chilean sea bass, Atlantic salmon and monkfish."
Walpow dutifully carries a link to TJ's response, which really isn't a response but a few paragraphs that are part of the company FAQ page regarding store "issues." The brief statement does claim that the chain stopped selling Chilean sea bass in 2005 as a direct result of customer pressure, and that "when we do offer seafood species on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch 'red' or 'avoid' list, we undertake additional steps to fully understand the ways in which those items come to market to be sure they fit with our customers' needs and concerns. We're also evaluating alternatives to those red list species."
When the company was contacted by phone, Trader Joe's executive vice president for marketing and merchandising, Joe Basalone, issued this statement: "Trader Joe's does not participate in any surveys. As a result, information gets gleaned from sources outside of Trader Joe's, and this can lead to inaccurate reporting, which can lead to confusion. That's why we wanted to take a moment to clear up a few things.
"The Greenpeace report details that Trader Joe's sells a certain number of items on their 'Red List.' But several of the items that they call out are NOT for sale in our stores. We do NOT sell Chilean Sea Bass, Monkfish, Ocean Quahog or Redfish in any of our stores. In fact, Trader Joe's sells fewer items on that 'Red List' than the #1 ranked grocery retailer in their report."
"In response to TJs announcement [regarding] all the fish that they 'don't sell,'" Greenpeace USA spokesman Daniel JKessler emailed, "they are victims of their own lack of transparency. To illustrate, the ocean quahog that they 'absolutely do not sell' is easily found. Just look in any can of Trader Joe's brand clam chowder. It's mislabeled as 'sea clam.'"
In the wake of Greenpeace's scorecard, some San Francisco TJ's stores were targeted by protesters dressed as fish. In a culture that has become inured to shaming campaigns, it remains to be seen how effectively the scorecard and protests will play with consumers.