With its Responsible Choice Initiative and Fishery Improvement Projects, Hy-Vee is Raising the Bar

One of the key goals of Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative is to help the seafood industry improve and help those fisheries and farms that are not performing at sustainable levels improve in discrete ways. To promote healthy oceans and ensure a long-term seafood supply, Hy-Vee is continuing to encourage its seafood suppliers to participate in fishery improvement projects (FIPs).

FIPs are an important component of Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy as they provide a direct pathway for Hy-Vee to encourage improvements on the water, be that through strengthening fisheries management policies or by providing incentives for fishers to reduce the environmental impacts of their fishing gear.

What that means to the consumer is that though products from these fisheries may not currently meet the definition of “responsibly sourced” and be eligible for the Responsible Choice label, they still meet Hy-Vee’s 2015 Responsible Sourcing Commitment because they are in a “time-bound improvement process.”

These improvements may range from an internal agreement between FishWise and Hy-Vee about a particular seafood sourcing strategy, particularly for aquaculture, to external, multi-stakeholder efforts to improve a fishery, such as a fishery improvement project. In general, for an improvement project to meet Hy-Vee’s 2015 Commitment it must contain:

  • A time-bound component that establishes a clear objective consistent with the Seafood Procurement Policy
  • A work-plan with measurable indicators
  • A date by which the necessary improvements are to be achieved
  • Fishery improvement projects must meet the Guidelines for Supporting Improvement Projects established by the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions (available here)

The important takeaway for consumers is that Hy-Vee is doing important work on the water, whether encouraging fisheries to use different gear or implement new management plans that will move them toward sustainability.

It’s important to support those fisheries that are already doing a good job, but it’s just as important to work with those that are struggling to improve through FIPs. This is an important way that retailers can drive improvement. Without support from retailers, they don’t have the motivation to improve.

Author: Kathleen Mullen-Ley

My name is Kathleen Mullen-Ley, and I am a project manager for FishWise. FishWise, a nonprofit sustainable seafood consultancy, has been working with Hy-Vee to research and recommend seafood product sourcing, develop and implement Hy-Vee's Responsible Choice Seafood materials and staff training, and analyze data to measure progress towards Hy-Vee's 2015 Commitment. I hold a master’s degree in marine biodiversity and conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies from the University of California Santa Cruz. My graduate research project was an analysis of the World Trade Organization ruling on the U.S. dolphin-safe tuna label and its implications for future market-based marine conservation efforts. My experience analyzing fishery management issues and communicating marine science to diverse audiences combined with my respect for ocean life has made me well-prepared to take on the challenges of sustainable seafood.

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