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Jul 032009

From Green Right Now Reports

Greenpeace followed up the release this week of its latest Carting Away the Oceans scorecard with a friendly and fishy demonstration outside Trader Joe’s stores in San Francisco.

Greenpeace members, two of whom dressed as orange roughy and others who parodied Trader’s by wearing Hawaiian shirts mimicking the store’s trademark uniform, handed out information on why its important to select and buy seafood that can be replenished and also asked prospective customers to sign petition postcards to privately held grocery company.

California-based Trader Joes is a grocery with more than 300 stores that caters to people looking for natural and organic and specialty items at reasonable prices. It prides itself on selling “unconventional and interesting products.” But Greenpeace has ranked the store dead last among national grocery chains for its conventional approach to selling seafood, specifically its lack of attention to seafood sustainability. The advocacy group says Trader Joes (which ranked #17 on the seafood scorecard) has no apparent plant to assure it is buying reputably fished and farmed seafood and sells “Red Listed” fish that are endangered by overfishing or habitat loss.

Orange roughy are on Greenpeace’s Red List, which includes several jeopardized fish that marine experts have identified as needing time to recover from over-harvesting and whose populations are at risk of collapsing.

Trader Joe’s has not replied to a query for response.

To keep the heat up on the chain, Greenpeace also opened a website, called “Traitor Joe’s” where a cartoon pirate welcomes people to his “one stop shop for ocean destruction.” The site further explains Greenpeace’s seafood campaign.

Greenpeace is urging consumers to buy from stores that are trying to minimize their impact on the oceans by selling sustainably farmed or caught fish. It’s new rankings released this week commended Wegman’s, Ahold USA, Whole Foods and Target for doing the best job to maintain an eco-friendly seafood counter. Safeway, Harris Teeter and Wal-Mart also received acceptable marks. But Greenpeace listed nine grocery chains, national and some regional, as doing little to help save the oceans and urged consumers to not buy seafood from those retailers. (Trader Joe’s was last among national chains, with three regional chains ranking lowest on the 20 store list.) For more details on Trader Joe’s response to Greenpeace’s seafood campaign, see the listings on the seafood scorecard.

The company responded to Greenpeace’s query for information on its seafood practices by saying its policy is guided by “listening to its customers” but declining to give any more information, according to Greenpeace’s report card. Greenpeace concludes in its report that the chain is not affiliated with any conservation groups, has no discernible seafood policy to reduce environmental harm and in addition, that signs posted in some of its stores suggesting that its seafood is environmentally friendly appear to be mere marketing ploys.

The company’s stated reliance on customer input helped shape Greenpeace’s decision to have Trader Joe’s customers sign petition postcards asking for strong seafood policies, a spokeswoman explained.

(Photo credit: Greenpeace, San Francisco.)