Trader Joe’s grocery store chain announced last month they will sell only environmentally sustainable fish by the end of 2012, responding to criticism from Greenpeace and customers about current seafood practices.

The company said it will begin working with third-party groups to define sustainability, ensuring that canned, frozen and fresh fish sold in stores across the country will come from sustainable sources. They will also create more specific labels for fish, including catch methods and Latin names.

The move came after a campaign from Greenpeace, an environmental non-governmental organization, to encourage the sale of sustainable fish in Trader Joe’s stores.

Seafood is considered sustainable if the continued or increased capture of wild or farmed fish does not endanger the population or ecosystem from which it was obtained.

Senior Markets Campaigner Casson Trenor said Trader Joe’s decision was a step in the right direction.

“The change Trader Joe’s has exhibited will set a good example for all seafood companies, and if those industry dinosaurs continue to ignore science and progress, they do not deserve patronage,” Trenor said.

Local Trader Joe’s supervisor David Cervantes said his store is happy to make the change to sustainable seafood.

“The customers spoke and we made it happen,” Cervantes said. “People want to support what they believe in and we’ll do anything to make the customers happy.”

In a Greenpeace study of 20 seafood retailers, Trader Joe’s was given the sustainability ranking of number 17. Trenor said his organization pressured Trader Joe’s for eight months before going to the grocery store’s customer base with their concerns.

“We release a report of the top 20 major seafood companies. Trader Joe’s was ranked 17 out of 20 but we expect an improvement on next month’s report,” Trenor said.
The decision to begin selling sustainable fish is not the first time Trader Joe’s has changed policy to address seafood concerns. In 2005, the company stopped selling Chilean Sea Bass because of its inclusion of the ‘red list’ of imperiled fish species.