Wegmans kindly shared this blog with us.
I have been in my “new” role at Wegmans for three years now —V.P. Seafood Sustainability. I’m so fortunate to work for a company that recognizes its responsibility to its employees, customers and the environment we all share. My 40 years of seafood experience at Wegmans has afforded me the opportunity to travel the world working with fishermen. I’ve celebrated their successes and witnessed their challenges, realizing that if we are serious about sourcing seafood for generations to come, we have to address the sustainability of wild and farm-raised products.
When Wegmans opened its first fish department in 1974 (I was the manager!), there was no thought of sustainability. The east coast of the U.S. was flooded with landings of cod, haddock, scallops and more. All of the species were wild-caught. Fast forward to the early 2000s and we began to see these wild resources were not infinite. Farmed seafood began to enter the picture. It became obvious changes were needed.
Now fast forward to today. Sales of farmed seafood have surpassed wild. Many wild fisheries have strict quotas placed on them; fishermen are limited in the quantity of fish they can legally take from the water and the areas where they are allowed to fish.
Wegmans realized we could not undertake this sustainability journey alone. We partner with organizations working on shared concerns:
- Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) provides scientific information with up-to-date, impartial, actionable information on the sustainability of fisheries and the improvements needed to become sustainable. SFP has guided us in the creation of Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP) which can be viewed on our website.
- Trace-Register helps us document every step seafood takes from the boat/farm to our stores. In addition, it verifies that the product received matches what we ordered.
- Global Aquaculture Alliance understands the intricate challenges surrounding farm-raised seafood with its Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program which looks at standards from the processing plant to the feed used in the raising of seafood.
But without knowledgeable folks behind our counters, our customers wouldn’t know what was being done for this wonderful source of protein. We developed a Seafood University and “attendance” is required of all seafood employees. We have a web-based data center used for communication to our employees with a “Sustainability Snippet” published monthly. There is a Sustainable Seafood computer-based training module that will soon be available to our employees. Our seafood merchants know what to ask of our suppliers and how to guide them to reach our specifications.
Seafood Sustainability requires a team effort. Wegmans has been very involved in the Food Marketing Institute Seafood Sourcing Committee. Jeanne Colleluori, from our Consumer Affairs department, and I are part of a group of representatives from 20 supermarkets meeting twice a year to discuss this all- important topic. Also, since seafood does not have a USDA organic definition, we have been very active in this endeavor. Jeanne, Mary Ellen Burris (Sr. VP Consumer Affairs) and I met with USDA in 2012 to share a retailer’s perspective. We continue to be active with hope of having USDA organic standards in place in 2016.
My current role at Wegmans allows me to work with the industry to help identify ways to protect and defend our oceans, rivers and lakes. I’m hopeful that every small step forward will lead toward allowing our grandchildren to enjoy seafood.