Last week, WWF and a broad coalition of NGOs and industry hosted an event on Parliament Hill calling on Canada to mark March 18 as National Sustainable Seafood Day. The idea behind the annual day is to offer all Canadians the opportunity to celebrate the incredible diversity of life in our oceans, rivers and lakes, the enormous contribution they make to our economy, and to better understand what's being done -- and what needs to be done -- to ensure people and this hugely important part of our planet continue to thrive.
Improving the way we fish and grow seafood is critical to the survival of some of our planet's most threatened marine and freshwater species and environments. But a national sustainable seafood day is also a critical reminder that even through our everyday choices in what food we buy, we can have a profound impact on the future of life on our planet. And nowhere is that more true than at our fish counters.
Though largely out of sight and mind, wildlife in our oceans is struggling. Eighty-five per cent of the world's marine stocks are either fully exploited or overfished. And in spite of this, we're still running more than double the number of fishing vessels than our oceans can support. Canada's cod stocks, though showing some signs of recovery, are a mere fraction of what they once were. And the same story is unfolding for other commercial species: tuna, salmon and Atlantic halibut among them.
Meanwhile the world's at-risk sharks, whales and marine turtles continue to get caught up in fishing gear -- the unintentional victims of our increasing demand for seafood (or "bycatch" for short).
Reversing this downward trend means changing the way we fish and farm our oceans. And that means transforming how it all gets done -- from what goes on in the boat to what you choose to put on your plate.
It's a tremendous endeavour. Canada's largest food retailer, Loblaw Companies Limited (Loblaw), has been helping catalyze change on the water since 2009 when they made the industry-leading commitment to ensure that all of the seafood it sells comes from sustainable sources. Encompassing wild and farmed, fresh, frozen and canned seafood, the company's goal also covers products that contain seafood ingredients including fish oil supplements, omega-3 orange juice, and even pet food.
This is very good news for the health of our oceans and everything in them. Its evidence is a growing volume of certified sustainable products on Loblaw's shelves meeting the most rigorous standards in existence: the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild capture fisheries and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) for farmed seafood. These standards help address some of the greatest threats to oceans life: destruction of habitat, bycatch, and overfishing.
In Loblaw's seafood progress report, released today, approximately 88 per cent of its seafood product sales are procured from MSC or ASC certified sources, acceptable sources with conditions, or sources making meaningful progress toward sustainability. As the country's largest buyer and seller of seafood, this is a truly phenomenal milestone for Loblaw, one that especially resonates as we continue to call for a national day that celebrates Canada's efforts to keep its oceans healthy. What it means is that you and I now have direct access to certified sustainable seafood products which helps support the future of life in our oceans, no matter how close or far we live from them. It's right there before us, at our local grocery store.
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