Greenpeace says Costco’s seafood sustainability efforts miss the mark

Greenpeace is taking aim at Costco, the third largest retailer in the country, for its poor efforts in offering sustainable seafood. 

Costco has repeatedly assured shareholders and customers that it supports sustainable seafood, yet its actions say otherwise. Consumers can easily find 15 of the 22 seafoods ‘red-listed’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) which is the world’s leading authority on species in danger of extinction. Costco regularly carries two of the world’s most critically imperiled species: orange roughy and Chilean sea bass.  

One of 20 seafood retailers profiled in Greenpeace’s annual sustainable seafood guide, Carting Away the Oceans (CATO), according to Greenpeace,  Costco continually receives one of the a poorer ratings among the big box stores in the area of seafood sustainability.  With retail giants like Target, Whole Foods and Safeway among the list’s top 4 retailers analyzed, Costco ranks a mere 14 out of 20.  

According to a letter to Greenpeace from Doug Schutt, Executive Vice President of Costco Wholesale, when urged to implement sustainable seafood practices, he responded:  

“We do not feel it is our role to deny our members access to products that are lawfully acquired or sold.” 

Costco often carries 15 of the 22 endangered Red Listed fish


Greenpeace says that Costco “patronizes certain fisheries that are known to be fraught with IUU (illegal, unregulated, and unreported) fishing, also known as “pirate fishing.” and that these vessels “operate outside of any body of law.  

In the old “blame it on the customer” strategy, Schutt also stated:  

“The owners of [Costco], its shareholders (an important constituency), have generally not demanded that we adopt the Greenpeace approach to sourcing and sale of seafood.”  

Too bad Costco – with an estimated monthly traffic of 4.7 million United States unique visitors – has decided to not rock the boat, rather than to join a trend that a number of large food retailers have implemented by committing to responsibly only carry sustainable seafood. Consumers will buy what’s available and with the ever-growing consumer demand for eco-friendly practices, Costco seems to have missed the boat.

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