Dinner with a side of ocean destruction?

Every time you eat at a restaurant, university cafeteria, airport, corporate campus, or sporting event, your food was likely provided by a large foodservice company. Sea of Distress 2017, a new Greenpeace report, evaluates whether food companies are helping or harming the oceans and workers.

The world’s oceans are home to one million species, covering more than seventy percent of our planet, providing life-sustaining oxygen (every other breath we take), and providing food for billions of people globally. Like many ecosystems on planet Earth, our oceans face constant threats, including climate change, destructive fishing, and plastic pollution. Global fishing fleets are stealing fish from coastal communities, engaging in illegal activities, and using destructive fishing methods that kill hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, seabirds, and up to 100 million sharks every year.

We are in dangerous waters. The quest for profits and endless growth has led the global seafood industry to expand even as new science indicates that global fish catches have been declining since the 1990s. Since 1971, Greenpeace has campaigned to protect marine life and the world’s oceans. Today our mission is ever more critical, and that is why we are calling on businesses to act.

Foodservice companies are not household names, but they feed America—every day about half of the money people spend away from home goes to the foodservice industry. These companies buy and sell tremendous amounts of seafood. They transport, cook, or serve the food you get at well-known places like Disney World, Burger King, Kennedy Space Center, Yosemite National Park, Florida State University, Hilton Hotels, and Subway.

It is time to shine a light on this industry.  Sea of Distress 2017 examines seafood sustainability and the treatment of workers among these large foodservice companies.

Sodexo, Aramark, and Compass Group continue to lead by sourcing more responsible seafood, working to phase out single-use plastic, and advocating for better practices on fishing vessels— like avoiding transshipment at sea. Among the twelve companies that failed were foodservice giants Sysco and US Foods. Although several companies improved compared to last year’s ranking, there is significant work needed to truly ensure sustainable, ethical seafood.

This ranking comes on the heels of recent responsible seafood commitments from global tuna giant Thai Union, which provides tuna for several of the companies Greenpeace ranked. If the world’s largest tuna company can take action to tackle problems like transshipment at sea and working conditions on vessels, so too can the biggest foodservice companies in the U.S.

Greenpeace activists hold up a banner in the hold of a ship engaged in illegal activity.

Together, we can call on foodservice companies to take action to stop labor and human rights abuses in the seafood industry, protect declining fish stocks, and prevent plastic pollution.

Here’s how:

1. Know the facts. Check out Sea of Distress to see which are the best and worst ranked companies.

2. Join the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement. Demand that foodservice companies immediately reduce their plastic consumption.

3. Eat less seafood. Reducing seafood consumption now can help lessen the pressure on our oceans, ensuring fish for the future.

4. Vote with your dollar. If you or someone you know eats seafood, use the Seafood Watch app. Only buy green-rated “Best Choice” seafood.

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.