MISSISSAUGA, Ontario – Sobeys Inc. today announced its commitment to helping improve the long-term viability of both wild caught and farmed seafood with an innovative approach to benefit both fisheries and customers. Sobeys’ approach is to work collaboratively with the fisheries, producers and relevant experts to initiate and implement improvement plans in the most problematic fisheries globally that the company sources seafood from. Improvement plans will define clear, positive and time-bound outcomes to address the most critical issues for a specific seafood source.

Sobeys will simplify its customer education by focusing on what customers have told the company they want most: greater understanding of where the problems are and what is being done to correct those problems.

“Although we fully support sustainable seafood certification programs and recognize them as part of the solution, the fisheries most able to become certified in the near future are those that are in better shape. We believe more near-term impact and progress toward improved seafood sustainability can be made by also focusing on more challenged species and sources that are a long way from being certified as sustainable,” says David Smith, Vice President, Sustainability, Sobeys Inc. “That’s why we are focused on seeking collaborative solutions to the biggest problems first, and concentrating on those typically left out of the eco-labeling process in the near term.”

Sobeys is officially releasing its policy on sustainable seafood today, with full implementation by 2013; however the company has already taken action through tightening its procurement practices in favour of better sources for some species. Other actions include the creation of fishery improvement plans, the listing of approximately 50 eco-label certified products and the de-listing of several severely
depleted species.

Sobeys has partnered with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), an international sustainable seafood focused NGO that is committed to providing strategic and technical guidance and process facilitation to seafood suppliers and producers. Through collaboration with the fisheries and relevant experts, long-term improvement plans with specific expected outcomes are being created.

“The challenges with seafood sustainability are many and complex. Sobeys is taking both a pragmatic and impactful approach by seeking resolution to some of the biggest problems as a priority,” says Jim Cannon, CEO and founder of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. “As a major buyer of seafood, Sobeys can and will have a significant influence on the adoption of more sustainable practices among fisheries and farms.”

Sobeys Inc. is committed to the long term sustainability of seafood, and by 2013, will not sell seafood species with major sustainability issues, unless they have improvement plans to address the key issues. Sobeys’ policy is consistent with the spirit and intent of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

“Although some organizations believe we should stop selling species with major issues, our view is that we can most directly effect change by engaging with those producers and helping them change their practices,” explains Smith. “Clearly, and as a last resort, when the situation is dire and the only responsible course is de-listing, we will do so. In fact, we have already de-listed all species of sharks, rays, skates, orange roughy, and bluefin tuna.”

As a core component in its customer offering and reflecting its role in the industry, Sobeys is committed to being a leading advocate for change to help ensure that seafood supplies are available to feed the needs of Canadians today and for generations to come, and to enable their customers to make informed choices about the sustainability of the seafood they purchase.