The ones that got away: Stop & Shop lets three kinds of fish leave its shelves

Jon Chesto

Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. is trying to do its part to prevent overfishing by discontinuing sales of all kinds of shark, Chilean sea bass and orange roughy until those fish stocks rebound in the wild.

The Quincy-based supermarket chain opted last month against buying shark again when it was back in season, said Ken Pentheny, senior category manager for Stop & Shop. Species of shark were typically sold fresh in the stores’ seafood sections.

During the past two weeks, the company has notified stores to not restock frozen supplies of Chilean sea bass and orange roughy, said Tracy Taylor, a senior buyer for the company.

Pentheny said the decision marked the first time the company, a division of Dutch conglomerate Royal Ahold, has removed a kind of fish from its inventory for conservation reasons.

“All three kinds of fisheries are on the decline,” Pentheny said. “They’ve got some kind of stress against them. We just made a conscious decision that it was the right thing to do, to step away from those fisheries altogether.”

Taylor said the New England Aquarium brought the issue to Stop & Shop’s attention. Stop & Shop has been working with the Boston-based nonprofit organization since 2000 on seafood sustainability issues.

Heather Tausig, director of conservation at the New England Aquarium, said removing the threatened fish from Stop & Shop shelves puts a public spotlight on the chain’s partnership with the aquarium.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to talk to their customers about what they’ve been committing to for a number of years,” Tausig said.

She said that Stop & Shop’s example could help encourage other grocers to pull certain kinds of threatened fish from their lineups.

“One company does make a big impact on how others in the supply chain do things,” Tausig said. “By making a public statement, Stop & Shop is also saying to their competitors and their colleagues that you need to get on this, too.”

Pentheny and Taylor also work with Stop & Shop’s sister company, Giant-Landover, which does business under the Giant Food brand. Both of Royal Ahold’s Giant Food chains – the Giant-Landover chain and the Giant-Carlisle chain – are also discontinuing the three kinds of fish. The decision affects about 720 Royal Ahold-owned stores in the United States.

Stop & Shop and the two Giant Food chains have qualified for recognition in the “Common Vision” program run by the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions to encourage businesses to work toward sustainable fisheries.

Jon Chesto may be reached atjchesto@ledger.com.