Greenpeace Says No to Trader Joe’s Seafood

After much ballyhooed discussion, fellow food site took a look at Greenpeace’s recently released anti-Trader Joe’s website, Traitor Joe’s. The mock website accuses the alterna-market of selling endangered fish species, including orange roughy and Chilean sea bass. In fact, Greenpeace alleges that Trader Joe’s actually offers ’15 of the 22 red list seafoods’. Though the site is flashy, there doesn’t seem to be much cold, hard evidence to prove their claims, unfortunately. Trader Joe’s Executive VP of Marketing, Jon Basalone, says that the statements are completely false, though he doesn’t offer any alternative information to combat Greenpeace allegations.

“The Greenpeace report details that Trader Joe’s sells a certain number of items on their ‘Red List.’ But several of the items that they call out are NOT for sale in our stores. We do NOT sell Chilean Sea Bass, Monkfish, Ocean Quahog or Redfish in any of our stores.”

I’m a bit dismayed by Chow’s final notes on the subject, suggesting that stores stock unsustainable seafood because consumers are buying it. I believe most consumers are unaware of their sustainable seafood choices, and purchase what’s available, therefore making it the distributor’s responsibility (in this case, Trader Joe’s).

Of course, the only way to be sure of your selection is to become aware of the seafood you’re buying by reading labels and inquiring at your neighborhood supermarket as to what you’re purchasing and how it’s been caught and processed. Check out our link to the Natural Resources Defense Council Sustainable Seafood guide to make sure you’re buying sustainable seafood. You can also review the Greenpeace scorecard for other supermarket retailers at the Sustainable Fishery website.

~Jennifer Heigl

10 replies on “Greenpeace Says No to Trader Joe’s Seafood”
  1. says: Courtney

    Ok- full disclosure, I work for an enviro (not Greenpeace), and I shop at trader joe’s all the time.

    They had monkfish in their freezer last weekend in brooklyn, contrary to TJ’s claims above. And for the record they ALWAYS have an overflowing stock of Orange Roughy, which I actually emailed them about 2wks before the Greenpeace campaign. Their response? “yea we know, but so long as our customers keep buying it we’re going to keep selling it.”

    It’s werid and I don’t like it. If you want their email saying “naw, we’re not going to do anything different”, and they have no interest in even posting information on the sustainability of the seafood they sell so consumers can make informed choices, let me know.

  2. says: jenniferhh

    Thanks for checking in, Courtney. I’m a bit wary of the company’s response anyway. I think it’s a total copout for companies to offer endangered species and claim they have it solely because their customers are buying it. Clearly, if they weren’t providing it, and offered a more sustainable choice, their customers would purchase that instead.

    Feel free to forward the email, and I’ll make sure to post it. Thanks again!

  3. says: Heidi / Savory Tv

    It’s too bad they are not more responsible, as they try to market themselves as such a PC establishment. I wish more restaurants would do the same, every time I see Chilean sea bass on a menu it makes me cringe. I once was giving a friend/chef/owner a hard time about serving it, and he said, “but it’s so delicious, and the customers love it.” Ugh.

  4. says: Flaime

    The AVERAGE consumer doesn’t care about sustainable seafood. They AVERAGE consumer purchases what they want to purchase and if Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry cheap Orange Roughy, then they will go somewhere that does. Until there is a move on the regulatory front to limit the sale of non-sustainable seafood stocks, which I don’t believe will happen in my lifetime as the political will is lacking, stores will stock what sells, whether or not it is “un-sustainable”.

    BTW, there’s no such thing as “Chilean Sea Bass”. It’s rockfish, people. Rockfish.

  5. says: Flaime

    And Jennifer, sorry, but I think it highly naive of you to say customers would buy an alternative if presented. Most human beings are creatures of habit. If they have been eating monkfish, they will want to continue to do so. If they have been eating rockfish, they will want to continue to do so. If they have been eating orange roughy, they will want to continue to do so. The person who is culinarily experimental is actually pretty rare. Once s/he becomes set in his/her ways, the AVERAGE person will stay the course until forced to change.

    So, while it may be a copout to say “as long as they buy it, I’ll sell it,” it is also the capitalist way. That’s how America does business and it will remain the America does business until it is forced to change.

  6. says: jenniferhh

    Interesting input, Flaime. I think ultimately the average consumer doesn’t know the difference between rockfish, monkfish, orange roughy, etc. When they enter the market, they’re just looking for something tasty to fry/grill/bake. And you’re right – nor do they care whether it’s sustainable or not. That’s why I feel it’s more the store’s responsibility to ensure they’re providing sustainable product.

    And I agree – there should be regulations against un-sustainable seafood availability. I hope that with more general food awareness, we’ll reach that point.

    As Bartolotta suggested in Vegas, if they called CSB by its real name – Patagonian toothfish – it’d sound much less appealing, but wouldn’t necessarily deter folks from buying it.

    Thanks for your comments.

  7. says: Joy

    man. I knew TJ’s was too good to be true! thanks to the foodie detectives for trying to keep them honest, and we can all see the good and the bad as well. around here, TJ’s is still a really strong choice for several reasons. cheaper than whole foods, better choice than big chain grocery stores .. that said, local fish markets and Eastern Market affiliated businesses might be a better choice than TJ’s or other chains. sigh. so much to consider. no wonder you made this a whole career, Jennifer!

  8. says: jenniferhh

    Thanks Joy. You’re right – consumers need to remember there are certainly other options for seafood purchases. Including some where – whoa! – you might even deal directly with the fisherman/woman.

  9. says: Flaime

    I think ultimately the average consumer doesn’t know the difference between rockfish, monkfish, orange roughy, etc

    Truly, I believe you are correct. They don’t really know the difference. However, they know that they have eaten “Orange Roughy” in a restaurant and liked it and they think they’ll give it a try at home. It turns out okay (they are really good at following directions and for a change, pick a good recipe) and so they add it to their list of things they like to make. So, they keep buying it and keep making it.

    I had a huge long winded comment typed out analyzing the thought process that leads to the over utilization of various things in the American restaurant industry and American consumer culture. And decided not to post it because it would put you to sleep;). Anyway, in the end, the only way to save the worlds fish stocks, in a world that 1) has a fairly ravenous seafood appetite and 2) is about 4 billion people over-populated for the fish stocks that it has is to institute reasonable regulations in the interest of the fish, which is never going to happen because most people think they count way more than some fish. Heh…I’m fairly cynical about the world being able to contain its negative impulses.

  10. says: Dan

    Trader Joe’s is one of the most environmentally friendly stores on the planet. Long ago they stopped using plastic bags and encouraged the use of cloth bags to limit paper use and save forests. Their products as natural as possible. I find it interesting that Greenpeace would pick on such a company instead of going after the truly harmful companies that sell on a much larger scale such as the Wal-Marts of the world. The oceans of the world are not in danger by Trader Joe’s; but they are in danger when environmentalists such as Greenpeace attach the companies that are trying to do the right thing instead of those that are harmful.

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