Costco Updates Sustainable Seafood Policy

April 6th, 2011 · 14 Comments

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;
  • redfish;
  • shark;
  • skates and rays;
  • swordfish;
  • bluefin tuna

You can read Costco’s three page report on Seafood and Sustainability online if you would like more details.

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14 Responses so far ↓

  1. 1 Jennifer // 2014.03.02 at 8:49 pm

    Because I developed an auto immune disease, I am trying very hard to eat the best, most organic, healthy foods. I have bought Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand Atlantic Salmon to fortify my diet. In checking, I see it’s a product of Chile. I can’t find anything online about it. Is it farmed? I need to know, because I will not eat farmed seafood of any kind.

  2. 2 Gloria // 2014.03.02 at 3:27 pm

    I’m sick to hear the Kirkland salmon is no more. The Kirkland salmon was so good, it was the drawing card for me to pay a Costco membership.

    And I’m even sicker of animal rights nazis telling us what to do and not do. If they have their way, they will exterminate half the humans to make life easier for animals. They already spend more to save unwanted pets than to save starving children. I’ve lived where they said wolves were extinct in order to bring in a foreign species, when all the ranchers KNEW we had native wolves. For years the power behind it in Washington DC ordered all sightings to be thrown away, so there was “no record”. Then they brought in a Canadian species.

    It’s all B.S. hysteria to let some people who think they are smarter than everyone else – ‘elistists’ – tell the rest of the world what to do.

    • 3 deneicy // 2014.03.03 at 12:03 pm

      We are fortunate to live in a country where we still have options. I would suspect that you can find various seafood vendors that do not care about protecting sea life.

  3. 4 Chris Patti // 2013.06.24 at 12:51 pm

    I’m very happy that they’re making sustainable choices, but very sad that this means that they’ve switched from the awesome Kirkland canned salmon to the gray, less flavorful bear&wolf stuff.

    Pity that there isn’t something that’s both tasty and sustainable :)

  4. 5 Sarah // 2012.09.13 at 10:51 am

    Just want to know do you sell tilapia fish or no . If yes what’s the price ?thanks

    • 6 Kimberly // 2012.09.13 at 12:31 pm

      @Sarah- I think the varieties of fish that are available at your Costco will vary somewhat by location. I would suggest you call your closest Costco to ask them about types of fish and prices. Since I’m not Costco, I can’t really answer that.

  5. 7 deneicy // 2012.05.08 at 2:04 pm

    I just want to be assured the TILAPIA is not from Chinese farms, where they reportedly feed them HUMAN WASTE.

  6. 8 Ric // 2011.09.14 at 9:08 pm

    As per the WWF
    Main impacts of salmon aquaculture
    The rapid expansion of the salmon aquaculture industry has not come without impacts – both real and perceived. The seven key environmental and social impacts are:

    Benthic impacts and siting: Chemicals and excess nutrients from food and feces associated with salmon farms can disturb the flora and fauna on the ocean bottom (benthos).
    Chemical inputs: Excessive use of chemicals – such as antibiotics, anti-foulants and pesticides – or the use of banned chemicals can have unintended consequences for marine organisms and human health.
    Disease/parasites: Viruses and parasites can transfer between farmed and wild fish, as well as among farms.
    Escapes: Escaped farmed salmon can compete with wild fish and interbreed with local wild stocks of the same population, altering the overall pool of genetic diversity.
    Feed: A growing salmon farming business must control and reduce its dependency upon fishmeal and fishoil – a primary ingredient in salmon feed – so as not to put additional pressure on the world’s fisheries. Fish caught to make fishmeal and oil currently represent one-third of the global fish harvest.
    Nutrient loading and carrying capacity: Excess food and fish waste in the water have the potential to increase the levels of nutrients in the water. This can cause the growth of algae, which consumes oxygen that is meant for other plant and animal life.
    Social issues: Salmon farming often employs a large number of workers on farms and in processing plants, potentially placing labor practices and worker rights under public scrutiny. Additionally, conflicts can arise among users of the shared coastal environment.

  7. 9 Angela // 2011.06.24 at 6:54 pm

    It’s like having your fish raised in a toilet bowl….industry insiders concede that a typical 200,000-fish salmon farm releases:
    • nitrogen equal to 20,000 humans,
    • phosphorus equal to 25,000 humans, and
    • fecal matter roughly equivalent to a city of 65,000 people
    • According to Scotland’s World Wildlife Fund, salmon farms there produce nitrogen wastes equal to a human population of more than nine million people….I’d like to see how WWF is going to prove open pen salmon farms are sustainable!

  8. 10 Liz // 2011.04.16 at 10:18 pm

    Sustainable doesn’t always mean farm raised. Farm raised Atlantic Salmon, for instance, is one of the most harmful fish sold. I believe they are going to be selling fish that are sustainably caught, not just farmed. It is so amazing that they’re pledging to do this! http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

  9. 11 Emily - Bentobloggy.com // 2011.04.06 at 8:15 pm

    I also prefer wild-caught fish and shrimp for health reasons.

  10. 12 Steve // 2011.04.06 at 7:44 pm

    What happened to the canned salmon they used to sell with the Kirkland label? Was much better than the supposed “wild” canned salmon they sell now.

  11. 13 Na // 2011.04.06 at 7:07 pm

    I hope Costco still leaves some wild caught fish around…..cuz I don’t eat farm raised fish.

  12. 14 Wade Woodard // 2011.04.06 at 10:17 am

    When did Costco switch to all frozen shrimp being farm raised? I will not buy farm raised shrimp; big difference in quality and taste compared to wild caught.

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