Waitrose accused of ‘greenwashing’ over sale of dredged Scottish scallops

WAITROSE has been accused of “greenwashing” its continued sales of scallops dredged off Scotland.

The upmarket supermarket chain says it is committed to sustainable sourcing for the seafood on its shelves. And it has announced that soon all of the scallops it sells will come from dredgers equipped with state-of-the-art electronic monitoring equipment, including on-board cameras.

However, environmental charity Open Seas has launched a scathing attack on the supermarket – part of part of the John Lewis Partnership – for selling dredged scallops at all.

Customers buying the shellfish, says the charity, should feel confident they are not picking up something raked off the seabed in protected areas.

The supermarket gets all its scallops from the Shetland Shellfish Management Organization (SSMO), supporting jobs in the Northern Isles. Environmentalists, however, argue the retailer is supporting what they say is a legal – but damaging – fishing technology.

There has been a sometimes bitter dispute over the future of scallop dredging with fishing lobbies insisting it is sustainable but marine conservancy groups countering that it is anything but.

Open Seas – one of the most vocal groups opposing dredging – has been lobbying Waitrose for some time. The supermarket, believed to be the only retailer to routinely sell dredged Scottish scallops, gets all its supplies of “clams” from the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation.

Its chairman Hugh Raven said: “We think that Waitrose is misleading its customers by claiming to be one of the most ethical and sustainable seafood retailers out there, when in fact it sources dredged scallops from a fishery that deploys the most egregiously damaging legal method of fishing in the UK. “Waitrose will no doubt claim that SSMO has exemplary local management in place, but many of its claims are patently greenwash. It cannot say that its seafood is traceable from ‘catch to check-out’, as it claims, when some supplier boats still have no vessel tracking in place.”

There are fewer protected areas around Shetland than off the west coast of Scotland, where dredging is banned across sensitive marine environments.

Open Seas says that audits of what dredgers off Shetland scrape up reveal a huge accidental haul of other species, such as horse mussels.

Mr Raven added: “If the John Lewis Partnership and Waitrose is truly committed to reducing its environmental impact, it should stop sourcing dredged scallops now and buy hand-dived, or not sell scallops at all until this mismanaged fishery is sorted out.”

Waitrose defended its sourcing, saying all its scallops came from the Shetland fishery, which was certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). A spokeswoman said: “The scallop fishery is an important part of the Shetland economy – our continued sourcing means we are backing small fleets and responsibly managed vessels while working with them and the wider industry ensure we can source from sustainable fisheries.

“We demand high standards from our suppliers in what they source for Waitrose. Coupled with the long-term relationships we have with them we are able to source the highest quality to the highest standards.

“The majority of vessels from this fishery that we source now have vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and expect to complete installation by the end of the month.” Monitoring systems are designed to make it impossible for dredgers to plow for scallops in a protected area.

But Waitrose said this was just part of its efforts to ensure sustainability, and to stop illegally-dredged scallops getting into its supply chain.

“Waitrose has strict due diligence requirements to help prevent any risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated fish entering our supply chains and our dedicated scallop supplier requires stringent traceability from their fishing vessels, over and above that required by legislation,” its spokeswoman said.

“As part of our review process we conducted a multi-year monitoring and data project with Ocean Mind and it demonstrated none of our vessels were scallop dredging in a prohibited area. Also, for the benefit of our customers, we will be using the MSC logo on our Shetland scallops from later this month – the use of this logo requires robust chain of custody protocols which are independently audited to ensure they are adhered to by all parties. ”

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