Greenpeace blimp targets Costco for seafood policies
June 30, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
UPDATED — 3:30 p.m. June 30, 2010
The environmental group Greenpeace sent a blimp bearing the message “Costco: wholesale ocean destruction” to hover above the company’s Issaquah corporate headquarters and flagship warehouse early Wednesday morning.
Issaquah residents and Interstate 90 drivers reported seeing the green blimp during the morning commute at about 8:30.
Greenpeace took Costco — the third-largest retailer in the United States and the largest employer in Issaquah — to task for what the environmental group described as exploitation of the oceans. Greenpeace called on Costco to stop selling fish species threatened by overfishing, including orange roughy and Chilean sea bass.
The chain, however, has pledged to “continually supply sustainable seafood products from either wild fisheries or farmed aquaculture sources which can be managed in ways that meet current needs without compromising availability of scarce resources for future generations,” a January 2009 corporate sustainability report states.
Jeff Lyons, senior vice president for fresh foods and a 20-year Costco veteran, said the company does not sell many — if any — of the fish species included on the Greenpeace watch list. Most seafood sold by Costco has not been wild caught, and instead comes from farms.
“Sustainability is good business,” he said. “What you’re talking about is having enough resources for future generations. Our company is not around for the next five years. We’re here for the next 50 years.”
Greenpeace profiled Costco and 19 other grocery retailers in a recent sustainable seafood guide, Carting Away the Oceans. The report lambasted Costco for what Greenpeace described as a refusal to answer questions about how the 568-store chain acquires seafood. The environmental group also launched a website, oh-no-costco.com, as part of the campaign.
But Lyons guessed Greenpeace representatives had gathered data for the report by peering inside fresh food cases and freezers at Costco warehouses, in the absence of sustainability information from Costco executives.
Lyons said Costco works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine the species least at risk from overfishing — not Greenpeace. The practice also makes business sense for Costco, he added.
“We as a company can do better, but we don’t have to report to them,” he said.
Greenpeace also hosted a small protest Tuesday outside the Issaquah Costco warehouse at Pickering Place. Lyons said Costco President Craig Jelinek met with the protesters.