Greenpeace sends blimp to protest Costco seafood policies
July 6, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Greenpeace has launched a splashy campaign against Costco to change how the Issaquah-based chain procures and labels seafood.
Greenpeace activists sent a green blimp bearing the message “Costco: wholesale ocean destruction” to hover above Costco corporate headquarters and the flagship warehouse during the June 30 morning commute.
The environmental group demanded for Costco — the third-largest retailer in the United States and the largest employer in Issaquah — to stop selling fish species threatened by overfishing and to adopt a sustainable-seafood policy for other offerings, including salmon and shrimp.
Greenpeace profiled Costco and 19 other grocery retailers in a recent sustainable seafood guide, Carting Away the Oceans. The report lambasted Costco, in part because executives refused to answer questions about how the 568-store chain acquires seafood.
Target, East Coast chain Wegmans and Whole Foods Market earned the top three spots on the Greenpeace list. The group ranked Costco at No. 14.
Greenpeace said Costco — the largest wholesale club in the United States — sells 15 of the 22 species on the list, including Atlantic salmon, Chilean sea bass and orange roughy.
But Jeff Lyons, senior vice president for fresh foods and a 20-year Costco veteran, said the company does not sell many of the fish species included on the Greenpeace watch list. Most of the seafood sold by Costco has been farmed.
“Sustainability is good business,” Lyons 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.”
Costco 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.
Greenpeace said the information in the Carting Away the Oceans report came from several sources, including annual reports, consumer surveys and the Costco sustainability report.
Greenpeace also rapped Costco for how the chain labels seafood to help customers “avoid purchasing destructively fished species,” the Greenpeace report states. The group said Costco lacks a sustainable-seafood policy.
The campaign marks the latest by the environmental group known for aggressive tactics to prod a major retailer to adopt sustainable seafood policies. Greenpeace pressured Trader Joe’s — or Traitor Joe’s in Greenpeace parlance — to change how the grocery chain sells seafood by 2012.
The environmental group also launched a slick website, www.oh-no-costco.com, as part of the latest campaign.
The blimp appeared above Issaquah a day after Greenpeace hosted a small protest outside the Costco warehouse at Pickering Place. Costco President Craig Jelinek met with the protesters.
Lyons said Costco works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency, to determine the species least at risk from overfishing — not Greenpeace. But he said the chain plans to discuss sustainability issues with Greenpeace representatives nonetheless.
“We as a company can do better, but we don’t have to report to them,” he said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.