Consumer demand is reforming practices of “big food” rapidly; How Vital Choice and our customers support sustainability
by Craig Weatherby and Randy Hartnell
From day one, seafood sustainability’s been our guiding star. For us, it all started with wild Alaskan salmon, which was our first offering and the first fishery in the world certified sustainable.
And every other fishery whose fruits we sell is certified sustainable, too: either by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the State of Alaska, which set comparably stringent standards.
Vital Choice certified-sustainable seafood:
Albacore tuna is the only fish we sell that comes from a fishery not yet certified. But the North Pacific fishery from which our Albacore hails
- Alaska Salmon, all species (MSC-certified)
- U.S. North Pacific Halibut (MSC-certified)
- U.S. North Pacific Sablefish (MSC-certified)
- Alaska Weathervane Scallops (certified by State of Alaska)
—via veteran troll fisherman (and close Vital Choice neighbor) Paul Hill
—is undergoing MSC review right now.
We’re confident that the North Pacific Albacore fishery will be certified sustainable, since virtually all expert observers consider the stocks abundant and well managed.
You’ve let us know that you share our stance in favor of sustainably sourced seafood… a position we’ve pursued as we searched onshore for the finest, tastiest certified-organic fare, from berries and chocolate to olive oil and bay leaf.
How your “vital choices” help
In addition to supporting sustainable fisheries directly through Vital Choice purchases, your choices enable us to take our own steps to advance seafood sustainability.
|Vital Choice ranked a preferred seafood vendor|
Vital Choice is listed as a “preferred” seafood retailer by the Seafood Choices Alliance: the international nonprofit association working with leaders from the seafood industry and the conservation community to ensure a sustainable supply of seafood.
Their “Preferred” designation identifies businesses that make sustainability a central part of their operations.
Like other preferred suppliers, Vital Choice offers only species the Alliance deems “Smart Choices”, and pledges not to sell any species with “Red/Avoid” status, which indicates significant negative ecological impact.
For example, Vital Choice has a significant partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium, in which we donate a percentage of our profits
—about $5,000 last year
—to support the Aquarium and its educational efforts.
We also distribute the Aquarium’s famous Seafood Watch wallet cards, which serve as pocket guides to the best and worst seafood choices, including sustainably harvested species, endangered fisheries, and eco- endangering fish-farming sectors (see montereybayaquarium.org).
Last year, we distributed about 10,000 Seafood Watch wallet cards to our customers and to folks who visited our booth at health and nutrition conferences.
Efforts like these help educate consumers… and their kids, who will need to fight for wild fish and fish habitats in future years.
Four food giants proclaim sustainability policies
Together with media stories about threats to fish, highly effective awareness campaigns mounted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Seafood Choices Alliance, and others resulted recently in four important successes:
These decisions were driven by demand from educated consumers, and demonstrate that our joint efforts—and dollars— are reaping meaningful results.
- The largest food service group in the western hemisphere—The Compass Group—recently announced that as of March 1, 2007 they’ll sell only sustainable seafood.
- Wal-Mart pledged to eventually stock its North American stores only with fish from fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
- Darden Restaurants—which serves about 300 million meals a year in its Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other chains—recently announced plans to source only shrimp certified as sustainably farmed (Shrimp farms can be very destructive to coastal ecologies critical to the ocean food web).
- Britain’ big Marks & Spencer supermarket chain pledged that by 2012 it will sell only fish certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council or another independent body.
Impacts far from shore
Seafood sustainability is about more than the fish themselves. In fact, over-fishing is just one part of the picture.
Fisheries often fail not just because of over exploitation, but because the natural web that sustains fish at the top of the ocean food chain—from floating plankton and krill to worms, plants, and such on the seafloor—is under pressure from pollution or other manmade environmental impacts.
In the case of Alaskan Salmon, their spawning rivers must also be protected for the fishery to survive: a connection that forces people to preserve river-related inland resources, too.
The requirements of seafood sustainability resonate though coastal regions and beyond, making sustainable seafood campaigns contributors to overall environmental protection.
If sustainability is a personal priority, you can feel good about selecting seafood—and organically grown onshore fare— from Vital Choice.