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Hannaford Supermarket Chain Adopts a Sustainable Seafood Policy
05/23/2012   Reported By: Tom Porter
Creating Seafood Dishes

The Hannaford Supermarket chain has announced what it calls a new "sweeping sustainable seafood policy." The company said all 2,500 seafood products sold in its 181 Northeastern supermarkets have now been documented as sustainably harvested.

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Hannaford's sustainability manager George Parmenter spoke to reporters this morning at the group's corporate headquarters in Scarborough. He said Hannaford now knows the origins of all the seafood items in its stores, either by the location of the fishery or fish-farm.

"We're really excited to say that Hannaford is the first major US retailer to be able to say that we have reviewed and documented all of the seafood products in our store as sustainably harvested," Parmenter said.

The policy has meant the removal of some 50 products from Hannaford's shelves, all of them from overseas suppliers.

"There's some shrimp from the Far East that we no longer carry, that's in cans, there are some species like red snapper and mahi that haven't been removed completely but certain fisheries we've had to remove because they aren't managed in a way that we feel comfortable," said Paramenter.

While some suppliers have been dropped, Parmenter said dozens more have improved their harvesting practices to come into line with the new policy, and it's all been done without adding cost to the consumer.

Jen Levin is with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), a non-profit based in Portland which helped Hannaford create and implement the policy, said the challenge has been ensuring the seafood suppliers can adequately prove that their product comes from a source which is responsibly harvested.

"With a lot of the suppliers, particularly the international suppliers, really getting down to where the product was harvested was a challenge and something that we worked very closely with them on," said Levin.

"In a lot of cases you have importers who are importing seafood products from a supplier in another country, and so that chain of custody is sometimes, the information doesn't necessarily stay with the product," Levin said.

The GMRI has been working with Hannaford for three years and already operates a quality seal program for certain Gulf of Maine seafood products, which uses an online traceability tool allowing consumers to see where all the food originated.

Hannaford's growing commitment to sustainable seafood is part of a wider trend, said Travis Nichols. He's a spokesman for Greenpeace, which last month issued a comprehensive report on the availability of sustainable seafood in grocery stores.

"Hannaford is one of the first retailers to tackle the sustainability of all their seafood. This is very important, as some of the largest fisheries supplying US markets are frozen, such as pollock, or canned, such as tuna," said Nichols.

Hannaford's new seafood policy is shortly to be adopted by all 1,400 US stores owned by parent company Delhaize, which operates Food Lion stores in the southeast and Sweetbay in Florida, among others.

In other recent developments, upscale grocer Whole Foods recently said it's eliminating a number of wild fish species from its seafood offerings: that's because they're rated "Red" by conservation groups, meaning they're either overfished or that fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats.

Target and Walmart have also committed to buying fish that's verified as more sustainable.

Also in attendance at the Hannaford press conference was Maine lobsterman Steve Train, who's been trapping crustaceans in Casco Bay for 35 years. For him the new is a welcome one and an endorsement of what lobstermen in the pine tree state have practicing for generations.

"I grew up with sustainable. I didn't know what it meant, no-one told me we were fishing sustainably," said Train. "But we were notching lobsters, throwing them back because they were proven breeders, putting the small ones back, putting vents in the traps. We were doing all this because that's what we were supposed to do. There wasn't a buzz word going around back then."

Hannaford's new policy comes at a time when The United Nations claims that 80% of the world's fisheries are overfished.


Photos by Tom Porter.

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