Fish Tale: Does Trader Joe's Sell Endangered Seafood?


this under Good Stores Doing Bad Things. The environmentally sensitive

consumer's dilemma is embodied in Four Story blogger Nathan Walpow's recent post,

"My World Is Coming Down Around Me," about charges that Trader Joe's is

not green enough when it comes to protecting fish. "Quick," writes

Walpow, "somebody make sense out of this for me. I can't have another

of my diminishing list of icons shattered."

Fish R Us
Fish R Us
Photo credit:

The source of Walpow's angst is the Greenpeace USA-spun blog, Traitor Joe's,

a look-alike site mimicking Trader's Joe's own Web page, but which

accuses Trader Joe's of "greenwashing" to project an eco-friendly image

while selling endangered sea food. A link connects readers with a

recently issued Greenpeace scorecard, which ranks TJ's No. 17 (out of 20 stores selling seafood) for being "the largest US grocer operating on a nation-wide

scale that refuses to substantively respond to

Greenpeace inquiries regarding its seafood

sustainability policies and practices."

Specifically, Greenpeace blasts TJ's for selling "red list" species such as  orange roughy,

Chilean sea bass, Atlantic salmon and monkfish."


dutifully carries a link to TJ's response, which really isn't a

response but a few paragraphs that are part of the company FAQ page

regarding store "issues." The brief statement does claim that the chain

stopped selling Chilean sea bass in 2005 as a direct result of customer

pressure, and that "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."


the company was contacted by phone, Trader Joe's executive vice

president for marketing and merchandising, Joe Basalone, issued this

statement: "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."

"In response to TJs announcement [regarding] all the fish that they 'don't

sell,'" Greenpeace USA spokesman Daniel JKessler emailed, "they are victims of their own lack of transparency. To

illustrate, the ocean quahog that they 'absolutely do not sell' is

easily found. Just look in any can of Trader Joe's brand clam chowder.

It's mislabeled as 'sea clam.'"

In the wake of Greenpeace's scorecard, some San

Francisco TJ's stores were targeted by protesters dressed as fish. In a

culture that has become inured to shaming campaigns, it remains to be

seen how effectively the scorecard and protests will play with


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