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The Greenpeace vs. Trader Joe's Sustainable Seafood War

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The usually environmentally friendly Trader Joe's fared the worst of the national chains on Greenpeace's recently released seafood sustainability scorecard, that rated supermarkets across the country on their handling of seafood.

Greenpeace even launched a snarky website titled Traitorjoe.com to take the chain to task and sent activists dressed as Orange Roughy to several store locations along the east and west coast. So far the website has gotten over 50,000 hits since July 2nd, Daniel Kessler, the company's media officer said.

Greenpeace's study, Carting Away the Oceans: How Grocery Stores are Emptying the Seas, ranked 20 supermarket companies by assessing their seafood policies and checked to see whether they sold fish off the red list -- fish that are over fished and need to be conserved in order to survive like the Orange Roughy, swordfish and Chilean sea bass.

More than half the supermarkets on the scorecard, that has come out three times since 2008, have made progress in increasing the sustainability of their seafood operations, Casson Trenor, Greeneace's senior operations manager said.

The Wegman's chain received the top rank while Ahold USA, and Whole Foods came second and third respectively. Even chains like Target and Wal-Mart beat out Trader Joe's.

The company, in response to the criticism, quickly put out a statement on their website stating that they were going to work with Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and make changes to their seafood list: "We listen to our customers. Hearing recent feedback, our goal is to offer seafood options that fit customer needs ranging from food safety and taste, to concern over the environment..... To continue in our efforts to support this goal, we intend to use the Monterey Bay Aquarium's science-based and research-backed "Seafood Watch" recommendations to help with our seafood purchasing decisions."

Trenor, however, said that while he was really glad Trader Joe's was making an effort to change their handling of seafood, Greenpeace wasn't going to let up until the supermarket's words were actually put into action.

"This isn't just Trader Joe's' ocean. It's all yours and mine too and we need to worry about it," he said.

In a statement emailed to Huffington Post by Jon Basalone, EVP Marketing & Merchandising of Trader Joe's, the company hit back and refuted several of Greenpeace's claims, stating:

As we've often mentioned, we listen to our customers. Hearing recent feedback, our goal is to offer seafood options that fit customer needs ranging from food safety and taste, to concern over the environment. This is not a new development for us. For example, we stopped selling Chilean Sea Bass in 2005 because of customer feedback.

We understand the importance of sustainability and consistently strive to improve our efforts in this arena. In addition to working closely with all of our seafood suppliers to ensure that a high level of standards and practices are adhered to at all times, we will further our efforts to support this goal, by using the Monterey Bay Aquarium's science-based and research-backed "Seafood Watch" recommendations to help with our seafood purchasing decisions. When we do offer seafood species on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch "red" or "avoid" list, we undertake additional steps to fully understand the ways in which those items come to market to be sure they fit with our customers' needs and concerns. We're also evaluating alternatives to those red list species.

Trader Joe's does not participate in any surveys. As a result, information gets gleaned from sources outside of Trader Joe's, and this can lead to inaccurate reporting, which can lead to confusion. That's why we wanted to take a moment to clear up a few things.

The Greenpeace report details that Trader Joe's sells a certain number of items on their "Red List." But several of the items that they call out are NOT for sale in our stores. We do NOT sell Chilean Sea Bass, Monkfish, Ocean Quahog or Redfish in any of our stores. In fact, Trader Joe's sells fewer items on that "Red List" than the #1 ranked grocery retailer in their report.

We would also like to make clear that ALL of Trader Joe's fresh and frozen seafood is labeled with the country of origin, and whether or not it has been farmed or is wild-caught. We feel strongly that it is important to allow our customers the opportunity to make informed decisions about what they buy.

As with all the decisions we make about the products we offer, this is an ongoing process. We look forward to sharing our progress with our customers as new developments occur.

Quick Poll

What do you think of Greenpeace's campaign against Trader Joe's?

Greenpeace should keep up the good work of protecting our oceans.

It sounds like Trader Joe's is a scapegoat, and not the worst one out there.

This issue is far from black and white -- it's good that Trader Joe's is responsive about the issue.

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