Hy-Vee, Inc. and its wholly-owned distribution subsidiary Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI), alongside non-profit sustainable seafood consultancy FishWise, recently achieved a groundbreaking milestone in seafood transparency by publicly disclosing a complete list of fishing vessels supplying the Midwest retailer’s fresh, frozen and canned private label tuna assortments.
The vessel transparency activity, highlighted in Greenpeace’s 2021 Tuna Retailer Scorecard, is one of many accomplishments for Hy-Vee’s renowned Responsible Choice seafood program. “Tuna supply chains are global and opaque, with tuna fishing vessels operating in remote regions of the ocean where oversight is often lacking,” said Ashley Greenley, Business Engagement Director for FishWise. “Consequently, tuna fisheries are susceptible to unsustainable fishing practices and are at increased risk for human rights violations.”
Working closely with Hy-Vee’s suppliers, FishWise was able to collect and verify data on fishing vessels supplying the retailer’s fresh, frozen and canned private label tuna assortments. For a six-month period, FishWise identified 29 individual purse seine vessels, 33 longline vessels, one pole and line vessel, and more than 3,000 handline boats involved in Hy-Vee’s tuna supply chains. “The sheer number and diversity of vessels underscores the complexity of tuna supply chains,” said Ethan Lucas, the Project Director at FishWise who led the project. “We were impressed that Hy-Vee’s private label suppliers were able to provide these data relatively efficiently, demonstrating that this level of transparency is certainly possible.”
FishWise cross-referenced individual vessel names with the ISSF Proactive Vessel Register, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMO) vessel lists, Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) Vessel List, FishWise Labor Allegations List (non-public resource), and the Global Fishing Watch (GFW) database. The handline and pole and line vessels were too small in size to be required to have International Maritime Organization (IMO) numbers, and thus could not be referenced within the publicly available databases.
From the information that was obtained, FishWise and Hy-Vee did not identify longline or purse seine vessels directly associated with IUU activities, or human and labor rights allegations. According to Lucas, “This project sets a new standard for increased transparency and public disclosure for high-risk seafood supply chains.”
“At Hy-Vee, we are committed to providing our customers with seafood that is environmentally sustainable, from legal sources, and produced and processed under fair labor conditions,” said Jason Pride, Vice President of Meat and Seafood for Hy-Vee. “This means working closely with our partners at FishWise and our suppliers to proactively identify and mitigate risks in our seafood sourcing.” Hy-Vee and FishWise hope other retailers and major seafood buyers will follow suit, ultimately normalizing human rights and environmental due diligence in seafood.
The tuna vessel identification effort is part of an ongoing sustainable seafood program that began in 2011, when Hy-Vee and PDI partnered with FishWise to improve the environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and traceability of the company’s seafood supply chains. Through the partnership, Hy-Vee has maintained 100% compliance with its Seafood Procurement Policy, adopted a best-in-class Seafood Supplier Code of Conduct (SCoC), made public its Vendor Expectations Letter (VEL), and has utilized novel technology such as public satellite data to investigate fishing vessel activity and worker time spent at sea.
FishWise is a non-profit sustainable seafood consultancy based in Santa Cruz, CA, that takes a holistic approach to sustainability to protect ocean health and workers’ rights. Offering expertise trusted by both labor and human rights and marine conservation organizations, seafood buyers and suppliers, and government representatives, FishWise offers a range of services that empower businesses and a diverse community of collaborators to lead the transition to a sustainable, ethically responsible seafood industry. Please visit FishWise.org and follow FishWise’s work on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for more information.
Hy-Vee, Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating more than 285 retail stores across eight Midwestern states with sales of more than $12 billion annually. The supermarket chain is synonymous with quality, variety, convenience, healthy lifestyles, culinary expertise and superior customer service. Hy-Vee ranks in the Top 5 Most Trusted Brands and has been named one of America’s Top 3 favorite grocery stores. The company’s more than 90,000 employees provide “A Helpful Smile in Every Aisle” to customers every day. For additional information, visit Hy-Vee.