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One Place You Should Never Buy Seafood From

Big-Box stores and their subsidiaries are generically the worst places to buy seafood's why.

In 2009, Americans spent over $75 billion on seafood. Truly, when that kind of money is talking, the whole world listens.

As such, it's important to be very careful about what message we transmit through this massive microphone. When we spend our dollars at seafood merchants that are pursuing business models which take environmental issues into account, we offer these purveyors financial incentive to continue along this path. On the other hand, if we buy toxic shrimp from the Guld or pirate-caught Chilean sea bass from a seafood merchant that has no compunction about selling it, we reward this type of nefarious behavior and communicate to the marketplace at large that we, the consumers, don't particularly care about the ramifications of our seafood choices.

If we shift our purchasing dollars away from larger companies and toward competitors that operate under a more eco-sensitive paradigm and conscious of toxins in the food supply, perhaps we can encourage these operators to change their ways.

A big-box store (also supercenter, superstore, or megastore) is a physically large retail establishment, usually part of a chain. Costco and Sam's Club are examples of big-box stores which offer discounts to their members by purchasing very large volumes while compromising the integrity and safety of the food supply.

Numerous environmental groups, such as the Mangrove Action Project and a number of Canadian anti-salmon farming organizations, have spoken out against Costco's seafood operation in recent years. Greenpeace, too, has been campaigning on this issue since June 2010, highlighting the company's lack of a comprehensive sustainable seafood policy and willingness to sell unsustainable products as long as they are certified by a "reputable" body (Costco has conveniently left this adjective undefined).

Costco has recently removed a number of key unsustainable species from its shelves, but the company refuses to elaborate on its policy or adopt any strict scientific benchmarks in its sourcing practices, and thus these dubious seafood items may yet reappear in Costco's freezers.

Big-box stores are typically the first to accept genetically modified foods since large biotech companies have direct affiliations via food manufacturers who directly supply them. Costco will certainly be one of the first on board to accept toxic Gulf shrimp, genetically modified salmon, GMO monster fish which have already been given approval by American safety authorities.

Why would scientists be trying to steer people away from safe, responsibly caught fish?

It is true that outdated data is a concern -- the dynamic nature of the ocean means we're always playing catch-up -- but who is more likely to offer a precautionary and wise course of action: a scientist who remains financially unaffected by the vicissitudes of the seafood market, or a fishmonger who is quite clearly benefiting (in the short run) from the sale of as much fish as he can get his hands on?


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