Wal-Mart wants sustainable shrimp

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
24 May 2007, at 1:00am

US - More evidence that Big Food is listening to the growing clamor for sustainable products surfaced last week at Monterey Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions confab.

Wal-Mart's Peter Redmond, the chain's vice president in charge of seafood, addressed the event.

Wal-Mart is the world's biggest retailer, and its move into organic foods last year was a powerful signal that sustainability means profits for Big Food.

Redmond outlined other steps Wal-Mart is taking to green Redmond outlined other steps Wal-Mart is taking to green up.

The company is requiring shrimp farms that have been ravaging the coast of Thailand to change their aquaculture practices or lose the retailer's business. Under the company's new rules, the shrimp farms must be certified by Global Aquaculture Alliance or Aquaculture Certification Council as being farmed in environmentally sound ways, he said.

It's no hollow gesture -- Wal-Mart sells more than 50 million pounds of shrimp a year (most of it from Thailand), which is about 40 percent of all the seafood it handles, Redmond said.

Wal-Mart is also turning more toward wild, domestic shrimp, even though it's more expensive, he said. The company has stopped selling some overfished species entirely, although he didn't name them.

And while itis reintroducing the hugely overfished Chilean sea bass, it buys only from a certified sustainable fishery in the south Atlantic, as Whole Foods does.

"I can tell you it's good for business," Redmond remarked. "Part of the sustainability issue is it's also a business plan for us."

It's also good news for worldwide efforts to save the oceans from complete depletion of major edible species by mid-century, as predicted by an international study published last November in Science magazine. Stanford University marine biology professor Stephen Palumbi was one of the researchers on that study; he appeared on a separate panel.

Whole Foods veep Joe Rogoff and Bon Appetit Management Co. CEO Fedele Bauccio, who appeared with Redmond, are far ahead of Wal-Mart. They challenged Redmond to follow their lead in refusing to sell certain foods they consider unsustainable.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle