Healthy Oceans. Healthy Communities.

Shoppers expect sustainable seafood but how do Canadian retailers stack up?

September 25, 2019

This Summer, SeaChoice released its first annual update to Seafood Progress – an online reporting resource that assesses and compares major Canadian retailers’ sustainable seafood commitments and what they are doing to achieve them. 

Results show there have been positive improvements by retailers within the last year with national average scores increasing across the board. This is largely due to an increase in transparency on what retailers are doing on seafood sustainability. For example, this year two additional retailers (Sobeys and Safeway) cooperated with SeaChoice to share information about their policies and practices, leading to more complete and representative profiles. There is now only one major food retailer whose profile is based solely on publicly available information. Two other retailers, Walmart Canada and METRO, decided to start publishing information on where their seafood comes from and how it was produced.

Yet much work remains to be done – particularly on seafood labelling. Canada’s lax seafood labelling laws means most retailers continue to provide shoppers with the bare minimum information required about their seafood products.  One retailer however is voluntarily leading the way. METRO includes important information such as the species’ scientific name, geographic origin of harvest and harvest method on their seafood packaging in both English and French.

Crucial work also remains in supporting improvements of typically unsustainable seafood commodities, such as farmed shrimp, farmed salmon and canned tuna. For example, all but one retailer (Buy-Low Foods) continues to sell farmed salmon. However, some retailers do preferentially source closed-containment and eco-certified farmed salmon.  Unfortunately for skipjack canned tuna, many sustainable seafood retailer commitments simply don’t include this commodity.

With shoppers expecting their local grocery store to be doing their part to protect our oceans and SeaChoice’s continued oversight to ensure they are - we expect retailers to continue their progress over the next year.  Stay tuned.