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CostCo Expands Sustainable Seafood Policy

Sustainability Marketing +3 more

US - Costco has ceased the sale of seven types of fish currently at risk of collapsing from over-fishing (the Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, and bluefin tuna).

Costco also pledged to begin compliance with two separate Aquaculture Dialogues (for salmon and shrimp) and to partner with the World Wildlife Fund to monitor compliance with these Dialogues by other countries (such as Thailand).

Costco has expanded its list of no-sell fish to 12 red-listed categories/species. The five add-ons are: monkfish, redfish, Greenland halibut, grouper, and all rays and skates.

The board of directors at Costco announced these additional fish in a recent, 3-page policy statement, which also clarifies the no-sell policy. To wit: “We will not resume sales unless our sources are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).” The company will also disclose the identity of any certifying organisation.

And, in continuation of changes it began last summer, Costco will improve its aquaculture best practices (“advancing industry performance through monitoring, control and surveillance” {MCS}) as it continues its commitment to farmed salmon and other fish.

Costco will also take on a global leadership role in developing a sustainable tuna industry. In this regard, Costco seeks to conform its fresh and frozen tuna procurement practices to guidelines set forth by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a private advocacy entity, whose mission is “to undertake science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch [unintended fish catches] and promoting ecosystem health.”

Quoting again from the company’s policy statement: “Moving forward, we expect to carefully examine whether there are other species that we should cease to sell because of a consensus around documented concerns that the species are at great risk. Presently we are working with WWF to identify sustainable fisheries for certain species that have been identified as at risk in certain respects. Those efforts may lead to us to cease sales of additional species.”

This policy progress on behalf of Costco’s corporate leadership comes as very welcome news to the hundreds of thousands of seafood consumers who voiced their concern to Costco. Although it is not an “official”, full sustainability policy change, it is significant progress, and we hope that this decision to adopt a more comprehensive, compliant, and sustainable seafood policy will serve as a market-force role model to other large, seafood suppliers and vendors.

To learn more about Costco’s tuna and tilapia procurement practices, read the February 2011 policy statement: Seafood & Sustainability -