Sharks in the News

Sharks have been in the news lately, causing fear among many people. But the reality is that just as sharks seem dangerous to us, they are in danger themselves. Sharks are crucial to healthy ocean ecosystems but many species are now endangered as a result of overfishing. In an effort to support healthy oceans, Hy-Vee has committed to not sell shark meat to its customers.

Sharks have been on Earth for at least 400 million years (Worm et al 2013). In general, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over a long lifespan. These biological characteristics make them especially vulnerable to fishing pressure.

Every year approximately 100 million sharks are killed in commercial fisheries. There is increasing global demand for shark fins, endangering certain species like scalloped hammerheads.

Even when consumers make the choice to not eat shark, it’s important to ensure they are choosing to eat responsibly caught fish. More than half of the sharks caught each year are caught as bycatch in non-directed fisheries where they are not the species being targeted.

Declines in shark populations contributes to changes in abundance of their prey and can upset the balance of ocean ecosystems. Sharks are key predators and therefore have an important role in healthy ocean ecosystems, according to the NOAA.

The Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” began Sunday, July 5. For more information, including ways in which you can help save sharks, visit http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/shark-week.

What Does Dolphin-Safe mean?

When purchasing canned tuna, you may have seen “dolphin-safe” label on the can. But what exactly does that mean?

In the U.S., the dolphin-safe label is focused on the relationship between yellowfin tuna and herds of dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. In this area of the ocean, large mature yellowfin tuna swim under certain species of dolphins for reasons that are not fully known by scientists. Due to the area’s unique oceanographic characteristics, the grouping of yellowfin tuna and dolphins rarely occurs in other areas of the ocean.

A fishery in the area uses dolphins to locate tuna by chasing them and encircling the dolphins with the tuna in a huge net called a purse seine. In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of thousands of dolphins were killed by the fishery. Public concern over the impact to dolphin populations in this area led to the development of the dolphin-safe label as a way for consumers to ensure that no dolphins were harmed to make their canned tuna.

In the 1980s, a campaign was launched to encourage Americans to boycott canned tuna. In response to the boycott, the three major canned tuna companies, Bumble Bee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea, pledged to only purchase tuna caught without chasing and encircling dolphins in purse seine nets. To advertise this to consumers, they placed a blue label on the can, which effectively closed the U.S. market to purse seine vessels fishing in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Rather than guaranteeing that no dolphins were killed in the fishing process, the label signifies that in tuna items sourced from the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, dolphins were not chased and encircled to capture the tuna.

Soon after the tuna companies created the label, the U.S. government adopted the labeling procedures into law with the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act of 1987.

Hy-Vee customers can enjoy any brand of canned tuna they choose, as every type Hy-Vee offers carries the dolphin-safe label. Customers can be assured that the canned tuna they buy at Hy-Vee did not come from vessels that chase and encircle herds of dolphins. In addition, Responsible Choice Hy-Vee Select canned skipjack and albacore tuna are caught with methods that are both dolphin-safe and environmentally friendly. You can read more about the items in a previous blog post.

NOAA Fisheries’ Status of Stocks 2014 Report Finds Overfishing in the United States is at an All-Time Low

The Status of Stocks report is an annual assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service that evaluates progress toward sustainable management of fish stocks in the United States. A stock is a part of a fish population, usually with a particular migration pattern and specific spawning grounds.

The study tracks whether stocks are on the overfished list or overfishing list. A stock is on the overfishing list when the annual catch rate is too high. A stock is on the overfished list when the population size of a stock is too low, whether because of fishing or oceanographic changes.

There were 469 stocks included in the assessment, and in 2014, the number of overfished stocks and stocks that were subject to overfishing was the lowest since NOAA began tracking stock status in 1997. In 2014, 26 stocks were on the overfishing list and 37 were on the overfished list.

These findings highlight the United States’ continued progress toward sustainably managing fish stocks. This progress is a result of the combined efforts of NOAA fisheries, the regional fishery management councils, the fishing industry and other partners.

The number of stocks on these lists has been steadily declining due to successful efforts to rebuild fisheries, which can be accomplished by establishing and enforcing catch limits, gear restrictions, minimum sizes, temporal area closures and other management tools. Six stocks —snowy grouper on the southern Atlantic coast, North Atlantic albacore, haddock in the Gulf of Maine, gag grouper in the South Atlantic, the Jacks complex in the Gulf of Mexico and Bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic — were removed from the overfishing list. Two stocks are no longer listed as overfished — gag grouper in the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic albacore — and were removed from both lists.

Hy-Vee customers can feel reassured that purchasing seafood caught in the U.S. is a good choice. The U.S. government is monitoring the health of its fisheries and ensuring that they are being fished sustainably, while fishermen in the U.S. are dedicated to following the laws governing fisheries management.

Hy-Vee labels Responsible Choice seafood, so keep an eye out for seafood caught in the United States, such as king crab, wild Alaskan salmon, Pacific halibut, Pacific cod, U.S. Alaska pollock and sablefish/black cod.

Key takeaways from the Seafood Expo North America conference in Boston

The 2015 Seafood Expo North America was held March 6 to 8. The conference featured more than 20 educational sessions presented by top seafood industry experts, covering the most important and timely issues relevant to today’s seafood business environment.

The hottest topic at the show this year was seafood traceability and efforts to address illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. The Presidential Task Force on IUU and Seafood Fraud unveiled its action plan to implement the Task Force’s 15 recommendations, while three other conference panels and sessions were focused on traceability and IUU. This reinforces that Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy is on the leading edge of efforts by retailers to improve traceability in their seafood supply chains.

Another topic that generated much discussion was the future of retailer seafood commitments. Many retailers, including Hy-Vee, have responsible seafood commitments with a goal of year-end 2015. Once that deadline has been met, future areas of retailer commitments may include responsible commitments for all shelf stable seafood, pet food, fish oil supplements, delis, sushi counters and more.

We foresee that future commitments may also include more vigorous actions to protect human rights. Recent articles have shown that human rights violations are an ongoing problem in the seafood industry, which is exacerbated by a lack of traceability in seafood supply chains.

The 2015 Seafood Expo North America was the largest ever with more than 200,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Hy-Vee, PDI and FishWise team had productive meetings with many of Hy-Vee’s seafood suppliers, discussing everything from shrimp to lutefisk.

For more information, visit the Seafood Expo website: http://www.seafoodexpo.com/north-america/conference.

Making the Responsible Choice: A Collaborative Effort to Eradicate Human Trafficking, Forced Labor in Seafood Supply Chains

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative is more than a commitment to food safety and protecting the environment, it’s also about responsible sourcing and that includes the safety and well-being of the men and women working throughout the supply chain. In light of the exposure of human trafficking in Southeast Asia and Thailand over the past couple of years and its relation to the seafood industry, Hy-Vee and FishWise urge customers and businesses to support and take interest in how their seafood is being sourced.

The key to responsible sourcing is knowledge. Often times, leading seafood buyers across the globe are indirectly supporting mistreatment of laborers by buying and selling seafood from unregulated markets. One of the biggest issues related to this issue in U.S. seafood procurement is traceability. Without knowledge of where the product came from, companies cannot verify supply chain compliance with labor laws and human rights standards. The issue is further complicated in seafood supply chains when demand for low prices undermines responsible business practices, and a lack of regulations and inadequate oversight open the door for various labor abuses.

Hy-Vee is continuously working to improve transparency in its seafood supply chains by ensuring their products are traceable back to the point of harvest — whether it’s a fishery or farming operation. To this end, Hy-Vee regularly collects information about the chain of custody and sustainability of seafood products from their suppliers, and Hy-Vee’s seafood vendors have been notified of the commitment to responsible sourcing and traceability.

As a customer, there are several ways you can be part of the conversation. First, ask questions when purchasing seafood in a store or at a restaurant. Questions related to where the seafood came from, how they trace their seafood and if the seafood is a responsibly sourced item produced with fair labor standards are a good place to start. This sends the message that traceability is important to you and encourages business owners to be held accountable. From there, you can take action by supporting retailers and restaurants that are committed to responsible sourcing.

Hy-Vee has committed to selling responsibly sourced fresh and frozen seafood that is rated as a Green “Best Choice” or a Yellow “Good Alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, certified to an environmental standard equivalent to these ratings, or sourced from credible, time-bound improvement projects. You can make informed and sustainable seafood purchasing decisions by utilizing the seafood buying guides on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website at seafoodwatch.org or the Seafood Watch app on your smartphone.

In addition to customer concern, all companies must implement responsible sourcing plans to ensure that human trafficking, forced labor and other human rights violations are not present in their supply chains. U.S. retailers, foodservice providers, distributors and others in the supply chain can use their buying power to lead change in the entire seafood industry.

There are several steps U.S. seafood businesses can take to ensure they are not buying seafood associated with human rights abuses. First and foremost, organizations should ensure products can be traced to origin and names and addresses of all entities that handled the product can be identified. Companies can also support labor audits through all steps in the supply chain, ensure each link in the supply chain makes a documentable pledge to customers to avoid labor abuse, share concerns and stipulate procurement on the supplier’s ability to regulate human trafficking and labor violations, and finally, communicate clearly with customers. This entails providing the origin of fisheries and the actions taken to guarantee products are not connected to human rights abuses, labor violations or environmental damage.

Hy-Vee has taken steps to ensure responsible sourcing through the Responsible Choice initiative. With collaborative efforts, we can all help to eradicate human trafficking and forced labor in today’s global seafood industry.

For more information visit FishWise’s Human Trafficking, Forced Labor Q & A:
http://fishwise.org/index.php/press/blog/286-human-trafficking-forced-labor-and-seafood-q-a

Hy-Vee’s Private Label Canned Tuna Among Top Five Responsibly Sourced Brands

Recently, Hy-Vee’s private label canned tuna ranked fifth in Greenpeace USA’s Tuna Shopping Guide, which analyzed 14 widely available canned tuna brands across the United States. Greenpeace scored brands in categories including traceability, fishing methods used, product labeling and consumer education, and support for marine reserves and promoting industry change. Through this scoring process, it found that only 20 percent of the canned tuna sold in the United States comes from sources that engage in responsible and nondestructive fishing practices.

Hy-Vee Select Responsible Choice skipjack and albacore tuna were recognized as ocean-safe products because of their pole-and-line or pole-and-troll fishing methods, which have minimal impact on other species. Greenpeace also noted Hy-Vee’s recent strides with its Seafood Procurement Policy and the availability of information on the company’s responsible seafood efforts.

Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy includes the Responsible Choice labeling initiative, which informs customers about the company’s efforts to provide seafood from environmentally responsible sources. The policy was created to help Hy-Vee sell seafood that is not only safe for consumption, but that is also harvested or raised in a manner providing for its long-term viability while minimizing damage to the environment and other sea life.

Hy-Vee is dedicated to delivering a high-quality seafood selection to Midwest customers. To accomplish this, the company knows it must also play an integral role in keeping our oceans healthy. We congratulate Hy-Vee on this recent recognition and look forward to helping the company continue to improve its responsible seafood efforts.

Hy-Vee Customers Can Support the Responsible Choice Initiative and Help Save the Oceans in Four Simple Ways

Today’s consumers are not only interested in where their food comes from, but also the implications associated with how it was harvested. Through the Responsible Choice initiative, Hy-Vee has established specific guidelines to offer high-quality seafood that is not only safe for consumption but also is harvested in a manner that provides for its long-term viability — all while minimizing damage to the environment and other sea life.

Customers can assist in the effort to help save sea life and provide for a sustainable future in the following ways:

  • Purchase seafood with Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice label. The Responsible Choice label is backed by rigorous science and is Hy-Vee’s guarantee that the seafood you’re buying is not causing harm to the environment. To make responsible seafood recommendations, Hy-Vee draws from a variety of science-based sources such as peer-reviewed research, third-party certifications and color rankings generated by industry-leading non-profit organizations. Hy-Vee consistently works to improve transparency in seafood supply chains by ensuring products are traceable back to the point of harvest. Remember, choosing seafood that is responsibly sourced helps reduce pressure on global fish populations, and in turn ensures long-term viability of the seafood you love to eat.
  • Do your part by doing your own research. In order to protect marine resources and ensure future seafood supplies, Hy-Vee has committed to selling responsibly sourced fresh and frozen seafood that is rated as a Green “Best Choice” or a Yellow “Good Alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, certified to an environmental standard equivalent to these ratings, or sourced from credible, time-bound improvement projects. You can help too by educating yourself on the issue. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website at seafoodwatch.com or download the Seafood Watch app on your smartphone to learn more about the impacts fishing and aquaculture have on the environment.
  • Ask for more information. Whether you are at a restaurant or grocery store, ask questions. Information is power. Asking a simple question, such as “Where does this fish come from?,” alerts businesses that customers want sustainable seafood and expect businesses which are selling the product to be informed. To take it a step further, you may ask if the seafood is responsibly sourced, and support restaurants and businesses that offer ocean-friendly seafood. Encourage your friends and family to do the same, and buy local when possible.
  • “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.” Now is the time to put this well-known slogan into action. Plastic pollution negatively affects the ocean, so it’s important to make sure waste is disposed of properly to prevent it from ending up in our waterways. Today, nearly 80 percent of plastic materials in the ocean originate on land — that’s a staggering amount of pollution that affects ocean habitats and entangles sea life. You can help to reduce the amount of plastic pollution by utilizing a reusable water bottle rather than buying single-use water bottles; bringing a reusable bag to the grocery store instead of using plastic bags; participating in a river clean-up to prevent trash from flowing into the ocean; and recycling whenever possible.

Remember, you too can be a leader in ocean preservation by encouraging responsible seafood options, supporting responsible businesses and doing your part to minimize pollution. One person can make a difference, and we encourage all customers to take part in Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative.

Hy-Vee Defines Six Fields of Sustainability, Upholds Commitment to Responsible Choice Initiative

Today’s consumers are interested in and concerned about their food supply. From nutritional value and quality to sourcing and environmental impact, customers are asking for transparency. Through Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice seafood initiative, the company has taken it upon itself to provide a new level of consumer confidence.

Hy-Vee takes its commitment to responsible seafood seriously, which is why the company requires a thorough assessment before a seafood offering may be deemed a Responsible Choice item. As part of Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy, vendors are required to provide comprehensive information on six fields of sustainability for the shipment to be labeled “Responsible Choice.” These six fields ensure best practices are being met and vendors are accountable for their products. It also ensures products can be traced back to their origin.

The six fields include:

  1. The seafood’s generic, market name. This field lists the generic, market name most commonly used in the store, and the name most customers would recognize. For this example, we will use Alaska pollock. The market name for this seafood is Alaska pollock.
  2. Scientific species name. The species name discloses the seafood’s full scientific name, which is often in Latin or Greek. The Latin name for Alaska pollock is Theragra chalcogramma.
  3. Country of catch or production. This field notes the country in which the product was caught or farmed and ensures the first degree of traceability is met. The Alaska pollock was caught in the United States.
  4. Region of catch or production. The region field describes specifically the ocean, lake or location of the farm in which the product was caught. This also aids in traceability efforts and holds vendors accountable for their catch. Alaska was the region of catch for the Alaska pollock.
  5. Gear type/production method. This field names the method used to catch or farm the product, which ensures seafood vendors are utilizing responsible fishing practices as approved by the Responsible Choice program. This means the seafood was harvested in a way that provides for its long-term viability and also minimizes damage to the environment and other sea life. The gear type for Alaska pollock is midwater trawl.
  6. Sustainability eco-certification (if applicable). The final field requires the vendor to provide the name of the organization(s) from which it obtained certification. Hy-Vee and the seafood industry trust accredited third-party resources to ensure the vendor meets industry standards and follows best practices. An example is a certification or accreditation from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Based on this information, Hy-Vee and FishWise then determine if the product should receive Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice label, which indicates that the product meets Hy-Vee’s standard for responsibly sourced seafood. Hy-Vee defines “responsibly sourced” as seafood that is Green or Yellow rated by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program or is certified to an environmental standard equivalent to these thorough ratings (e.g. MSC certified).

Ultimately, Hy-Vee’s goal in assessing each vendor according to these six sustainability fields is to ensure each utilizes environmentally-friendly practices, is transparent regarding where the product was caught or raised, and provides a safe, quality product for their customers. Each of these six fields is listed on the product’s master case label and is available to customers upon request.

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice seafood initiative is more than an idea, it is a promise to customers. Hy-Vee’s commitment is executed through each purchasing decision and reflects the standards set within the Responsible Choice initiative.

Responsible Choice New Zealand Farmed Salmon

For the first time, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has given salmon farmed in freshwater net pens a Green “Best Choice” rating. As a result, Hy-Vee is now featuring this delicious Responsible Choice New Zealand farmed salmon.

In New Zealand, salmon farms do not have the same environmental impacts as salmon farms in other regions of the world, such as British Columbia, Chile, Norway and Scotland. This is due to several factors including differences in chemical use, pollution and risk from escapes.

To date, New Zealand salmon farms have never experienced a disease outbreak and therefore have not required treatment with antibiotics, pesticides or other chemicals commonly used in other major salmon farming regions. In addition, pollution from salmon farms in New Zealand is minimal, partly due to the small scale of the industry. For example, salmon production in Norway is currently 100 times greater than current production in New Zealand.

Although the salmon are not native to New Zealand, they have been successfully established in the region as a result of government hatchery programs that release salmon into the wild to stock recreational fisheries.

Hy-Vee’s Mt. Cook Alpine salmon is farmed in a freshwater lake in the Southern New Zealand Alps. The farm uses no antibiotics, vaccines, growth hormones or any other chemicals. The farm maintains low stocking densities that keep pollution outflow to a minimum. The swiftly flowing water requires the salmon to swim constantly, producing rich flavor and high quality.

Next time you’re standing in front of your local Hy-Vee store’s seafood counter, look for fish labeled Responsible Choice New Zealand farmed salmon.

Hy-Vee’s Progress toward its Responsible Sourcing Commitment

Hy-Vee is making great strides in its efforts to meet the 2015 Responsible Sourcing Commitment. As of December 2014, 79 percent of Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label frozen seafood meet the goal of being responsibly sourced and traceable or in a time-bound improvement process by year-end 2015. This is an enormous improvement, rising more than 10 percent since an analysis conducted in September.

seafoodiesProgress

The major contributing factor is Hy-Vee’s follow-through on its commitment to transition all farmed shrimp to sources certified to the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) standard for shrimp. BAP-certified shrimp come with a guarantee from an on-the-ground auditor that the farms and processing facilities are not causing undue harm to the environment. As more of Hy-Vee’s shrimp is BAP-certified, you can expect to see more fresh and frozen shrimp items displaying the Responsible Choice label.

Hy-Vee continues to work to meet and exceed the targets of the Responsible Sourcing Commitment. If the most recent analysis is any indication, Hy-Vee is determined and will succeed in meeting its goals.