Retail practices can boost the availability of sustainable seafood products | WWF Hong Kong

Retail practices can boost the availability of sustainable seafood products

Posted 24 August 2017
Round Table Meeting
© WWF-Hong Kong
The Sustainable Seafood Supermarket Roundtable 2017 highlighted the potential role of retailers in protecting threatened marine species.

WWF-Hong Kong recently organised its first Sustainable Seafood Supermarket Roundtable, giving a platform for the sector to share challenges, exchange views and discuss solutions for the sourcing and promotion of sustainable seafood in the territory. Participants included managers and representatives from four supermarket brands - AEON, citysuper, 759 and YATA.
“Many supermarkets brands worldwide have put in place a sustainable seafood procurement policy but supermarkets in Hong Kong are well behind this global race for improved supply chain sustainability”, explained Jovy Chan, WWF-Hong Kong’s Senior Programme Officer for Oceans Sustainability.
Speakers shared with the audience their views on new trends and perspectives on sustainable seafood sourcing and promotion. Supermarket groups can establish and implement a comprehensive sustainable seafood procurement policy, which encompasses elements such as avoiding selling threatened species, setting a sustainable seafood target through promotion and staying away from selling products associated with human-rights abuses. Retailers can also put in place monitoring and checks to avoid sourcing seafood products with chemical (including antibiotic) residues and ensure proper labelling of seafood products. Policies should be made public.
The Council for Sustainable Development has put forward 20 recommendations that help promote the sustainable use of biological resources. Its report on the public engagement with sustainability,  “Promotion of Sustainable Consumption of Biological Resources” has been submitted to the government.
“Supermarkets should ride the wave to become leaders in the industry to echo the Hong Kong Government’s vision to promote sustainable use of biological resources in Hong Kong. And seafood is with doubt one key commodity”, said Dr Winnie Law, Associate Director of Policy for Sustainability Lab of Faculty of Social Sciences of The University of Hong Kong.
IKEA offers a successful model of a business relying on sustainable seafood sourcing.  In 2015, IKEA announced that it would only purchase MSC- and ASC-certified seafood products. “Ninety percent of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited or overexploited, and this is the major reason IKEA implemented a sustainable seafood procurement policy, and become one of the leading retailers in Hong Kong, committing to 100 percent sustainable seafood.” said Leona Ho, IKEA Food Safety Specialist. The company has also provided sufficient sustainable seafood information through labels and signage that make it more accessible in its outlets
“Supermarkets as the seafood retailers have an undeniable responsibility to protect the marine environment.” said Coils Lam, Chairman and Managing Director of CEC International Holdings Limited. Supermarket groups are responsible for establishing comprehensive sustainable seafood procurement policy to maintain the sustainability of our marine ecosystem. As a first step, 759 has implemented a new seafood labelling system that provides the basic information on product packaging, including the species name, country of origin and production method (that is whether the seafood was wild caught or farmed). Keeping customers informed can help them make a smart choice so they can purchase sustainable seafood easily.
The territory is the second largest per capita consumer of seafood in Asia, with the city importing as much as 90 percent of our seafood from over 170 countries and territories around the world. Our consumption choices affect marine fisheries resources worldwide, so our choices can make a difference. As supermarkets play an increasingly important role in supplying seafood to consumers, they can also be crucial in making sustainable seafood more publicly accessible and even mainstream.
“Through putting in place and implementing a comprehensive sustainable seafood procurement policy by supermarkets we can have better chance that our future generation will still be able to enjoy and benefit from our bounteous ocean”, Chan added.
Sustainable seafood procurement policy for Good Business
  • Set up sustainable seafood targets
  • Do not source or sell threatened species
  • Ensure proper labelling (including species name, country of origin and whether wild caught or farmed).
  • Monitor seafood for harmful chemical residues (including antibiotics)
  • Avoid markets / countries supplying products that are associated with alleged human-rights abuses of workers
  • Make the sustainable sourcing policy public
Through their internal policies and commitments, many supermarkets have increased the proportion of sustainable seafood they sell and have stopped selling globally threatened species. Their actions benefit not only the global marine ecosystem but also help consumers to make a wise choice by broadening the variety of available sustainable seafood products.
Round Table Meeting
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