Less than one year ago, Wegmans Food Markets announced it had united with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) to help understand Wegmans’ impact on the future of seafood sustainability. In the months since the announcement, Wegmans has joined in on five Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP). These endeavors are collaboration of key fishery stakeholders including Wegmans, suppliers, scientists, government, NGOs (non-governmental agencies), and fishermen to improve various aspects of the seafood industry.
“The seafood industry and what we know about its impact on the environment is always changing. 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,” says Carl Salamone, Wegmans vice president of seafood. “SFP has helped us to identify several opportunities for continuous improvement.”
In Baja, Mexico, Wegmans is working with its suppliers to help reduce by-catch (unintended species) in the wild shrimp fishery. In the Chesapeake Bay, it’s helping to gather information to better understand the biomass and ecosystem effects of the Chesapeake Ray. Wegmans is also supporting a group of fishermen as they make the necessary improvements required to help their swordfish fishery (the entire length of the east coast of North America) work towards meeting Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification standard. Wegmans and its suppliers already completed one FIP when a portion of this fishery (in Florida) reached MSC certification.
Salamone feels this is exciting work. “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.”
“Retailer participation is a great asset to these Fishery Improvement Projects. It helps puts the consumer face in front of the fishermen and really helps the industry understand that they’re feeding families,” says Mark MacPherson, Sustainable Fisheries and Market Program Manager at SFP.
Another FIP with Wegmans’ involvement is ongoing in Central and South America. In August, Wegmans and four of its suppliers (JJ McDonnell of Maryland; Incredible Fish out of Miami, FL; Trinity in New Jersey; and South Bay out of Long Island) began to address some areas in need of improvement in the Mahi-Mahi fisheries.
Wegmans suppliers have written letters to their fishermen explaining Wegmans’ desire to only source Mahi-Mahi that has been caught using authorized processes that measure by-catch, location and quantity of the catch, and the vessel types and gear being used. Third-party verification will be instituted to ensure accuracy of the data collected. This data will help scientists better understand the current population of the Mahi-Mahi and the health of the ecosystem.
“The fishermen have had a very positive reaction to our request,” states 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!”