You may recall the petition that Greenpeace started last year to get Costco to change their seafood practices: not selling endangered species and using more sustainable sources for other species. It turns out there was also a letter by concerned Costco shareholders asking for an updated policy. In response, Costco made some changes to it practices. Namely, it stopped selling seven fish that are in danger of being over-fished: Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, and bluefin tuna. They also agreed to make some changes around their salmon and shrimp harvesting and sourcing. But for some, it wasn’t quite far enough as Costco was still selling fish on the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s red list.
In February, Costco announced that they would be making some further changes to their seafood policies. They decided that perhaps it was time to really get with the sustainable seafood program and will be eliminating five additional red list species from their warehouses, unless they can find sustainably sourced and certified suppliers. The additional red listed fish are: monkfish, redfish, Greenland halibut, grouper, and all rays and skates. From now on Costco will only use sources that are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and will disclose any certifying agencies they may use in the future.
Costco’s canned tuna supplier is a participant of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) and operates according to their guidelines on sustainability for tuna fisheries. Costco will now work towards transitioning their procedures for purchasing fresh or frozen tuna to also conform to ISSF guidelines.
Costco will also work with the MSC and World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) regarding their aquaculture (fish farming) practices for salmon, shrimp, and tilapia, as well as other fish. Currently, Costco’s sources for farmed salmon and tilapia are both working continually to improve their aquaculture practices. Costco will continue to work with the WWF to gauge the compliance of the Thai-based farmed shrimp suppliers that they use to make sure that they meet the standards set for shrimp aquaculture to help minimize negative environmental and social impacts of shrimp farming. Aquaculture standards for salmon, tilapia, and shrimp aquaculture are still being drafted but should be completed by the end of 2011. These dialogues are being developed by fish farmers, non-governmental organizations, academics and others who have been working together for several years to develop global standards. It is Costco’s goal to only purchase seafood from sources that follow the guidelines set forth in these aquaculture dialogues by the end of 2011.
Costco will continue to work with the WWF to determine sustainable fisheries for species that may be at risk. They will also continue to evaluate the fish that they sell to determine if they are under risk for over fishing or unsustainable harvesting practices.
The 12 species that Costco will no longer be selling:
- Atlantic cod;
- Atlantic halibut;
- Chilean sea bass;
- Greenland halibut;
- grouper (Epinephelus morio);
- monkfish (lophius americanus);
- orange roughy;
- skates and rays;
- bluefin tuna
You can read Costco’s three page report on Seafood and Sustainability online if you would like more details.