Future Bites

Sustainable Seafood Scales Up

Blue and yellow fish in a school

courtesy Muragash

Here’s some heartening sustainability news to file under this week’s Future Bites: Co.exist is reporting that grocery store giant Safeway is boosting the sustainable fishing industry in a big way.

This is good because sustainable fishing (like sustainable agriculture) reduces pollution and resource depletion, ensuring that future generations will be able to access the same food.  The problem is that the techniques are usually more expensive, because they’re fairly specialized, whereas traditional fishing benefits from huge economies of scale.

That’s why Safeway’s move is such a big deal.  The management wanted to transition to selling sustainable seafood in their stores, but they couldn’t find enough volume to meet their demand.  So they used their buying power as leverage and convince one of their large, traditional suppliers to become sustainable.  And lo and behold, once they brought sustainable fishing to scale, it became less expensive.  At Safeway, a regular can of tuna, caught with nets that also kill unwanted fish and endangered species, now costs more than the sustainably-harvested one on the next shelf.  This makes sustainable choices easy to make, and accessible to everyone.

The power of large corporations to influence the marketplace can be disheartening (Wal-mart’s effect on wages and prices, for example), but Safeway shows it’s a power that can be used for good, too. And this is a good reminder for all of us that sustainable and cost-effective are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Read Co.exist’s article for more, and come back on Wednesday at noon for your usual Cosmic Revolutions post.

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