With 70 percent of our earth covered by the ocean, it’s easy to think that its vast resources will sustain us for years to come.
But with our world on track to grow from 7 to 9 billion people by 2050, our waters’ resources are rapidly being depleted. And that’s why doing what we can to treat them responsibly is so important.
Seafood is the primary source of protein for 3 billion people. At Walmart and Sam’s Club, we recognize the need for sustainable fishing and so for the past six years, we have been working to ensure that the products we sell are sourced in a sustainable way. It’s an ongoing process, but we’re proud to say that as of August, 98.6 percent of them are certified as such by Marine Stewardship Council, Best Aquaculture Practices or equivalent standards, or have a Fishery Improvement Plan or other written plan in place to get there. The remaining 1.4 percent is being addressed through strategic buying decisions.
With nearly all of our products meeting these third-party standards, you may be expecting to see a BAP, MSC or other seal the next time you shop for your favorite fish. But you don’t have to worry about searching for them – we’ve made it easy by not requiring the labels at all.
While the adjustments we made to reach our goal may not have been so easy – switching sourcing locations for several products, canceling other items and even changing suppliers – it was obviously the right thing to do. What I consider even more complex is the reality that when we started this process, much of the seafood industry hadn’t started thinking in this direction. But that’s a perfect illustration of the good that can come out of our size and scale: As the world’s largest retailer and an early adopter of a sustainable seafood goal, we were able to inspire others to consider changes of their own.
For example, many environmental organizations have long advised against eating orange roughy because of its high mercury content and diminishing population. In addition, this fish lives 2,000 to 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, so the common capture method is a long dredge line that sweeps large parts of the ocean floor. Six years ago, orange roughy was a multi-million-dollar item for our company because its mild flavor is similar to tilapia. But the species’ dwindling numbers and environmental damage were reasons enough for us to stop carrying it, and other retailers have since done the same.
The hard decisions and hard work have obviously been worth it, and especially so for our customers. They can buy their seafood from us with confidence, and better yet, it’s still affordable. Having worked in this industry for many years, I’ve found that doing things right also allows you to do them more efficiently. If we adopt practices that allow us to fish our oceans properly, such as ensuring we’re catching only the fish we intend to catch – and not a lot of bycatch we have to sort through later – the process as a whole costs less money in the long run.
Besides all these wins, there’s also another, simpler one: The idea that the flavorful, nutritious fish we enjoy today can continue to be on the menu for future generations.