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Less than a year after teaming with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), Food Markets has joined five Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP). These efforts, a collaboration of such fishery stakeholders as Wegmans, suppliers, scientists, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and fishermen, aim to improve various aspects of the seafood industry.
“The seafood industry and what we know about its impact on the environment is always changing,” explained Carl Salamone, VP of seafood at Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans. “So it only makes sense to partner with an organization that can advise us on the most up-to-date and accurate fisheries science and information. SFP has helped us to identify several opportunities for continuous improvement.”
In Baja, Mexico, for instance, the grocer is working with suppliers to help reduce bycatch (unintended species) in a wild shrimp fishery, while in the Chesapeake Bay, it’s helping to collect information on the biomass and ecosystem effects of the Chesapeake Ray.
Wegmans is additionally aiding a group of fishermen as they make the necessary improvements to their swordfish fishery (the entire length of the east coast of North America) so it meets the certification standard of the London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). A portion of the fishery, in Florida, has already attained the certification.
“By working together, each FIP helps improve portions of the seafood industry, and these efforts will help the oceans provide seafood for our grandchildren and beyond,” said Salamone.
“Retailer participation is a great asset to these Fishery Improvement Projects,” observed Mark MacPherson, sustainable fisheries and market program manager at Honolulu-based SFP. “It helps puts the consumer face in front of the fishermen and really helps the industry understand that they’re feeding families.”
Another FIP involving Wegmans is underway in Central and South America. In August, the supermarket operator and four suppliers began to address some areas in need of improvement at mahi-mahi fisheries.
Wegmans’ suppliers have informed their fishermen of the grocer’s insistence on mahi-mahi caught using authorized processes gauging bycatch, location and quantity of catch, as well as the vessel types and gear used. Third-party verification will be implemented to ensure accuracy of the data collected. The data will help scientists better understand the current mahi-mahi population and the health of the ecosystem.
“The fishermen have had a very positive reaction to our request,” noted Salamone. “They recognize that protecting the biomass of the fish and the environment not only provides food for the future, but also provides job security for their industry. The fishermen have actually thanked our suppliers for taking on this project!”
Family-owned Wegmans operates 81 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.