Wal-Mart Gives $36 Million to Anti-Fishing Groups
RFA Says Walton Family Foundation Supports MPA & Catch Share Efforts....
August 17, 2011 - Wal-Mart announced this week its efforts to help fund
the demise of both the recreational and commercial fishing industry while also
working to ensure that the next generation of sportsmen will have less access to
coastal fish stocks than at any point in U.S. history.
In August 16th news release from Wal-Mart corporate
headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Walton Family Foundation announced
investments totaling more than $71.8 million awarded to various environmental
initiatives in 2010, with over $36 million alone handed over to Marine
Conservation grantees including Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International
Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and Environmental
Defense Fund (EDF).
According to the release,
the Walton Family Foundation "focuses on globally important marine areas and
works with grantees and other partners to create networks of effectively managed
protected areas that conserve key biological features, and ensure the
sustainable utilization of marine resources - especially fisheries - in a way
that benefits both nature and people."
Scott Burns, former
director of marine conservation at World Wildlife Fund and now director of
Walton Family Foundation's environmental efforts, said money will go to "protect
and conserve natural resources while also recognizing the roles these waters
play in the livelihoods of those who live nearby." The Recreational
Fishing Alliance (RFA) countered that these specially managed areas of coastal
waters are also referred to as marine protected areas or marine reserves, and
the end result is denied angler access, of no benefit to the very people whom
Wal-Mart claims to benefit.
"A quick visit to the Ocean
Conservancy website should be telling enough for anglers interested in learning
where Wal-Mart's profits are being spent," said RFA executive director Jim
Donofrio. "These folks are pushing hard to complete California's network of
exclusionary zones throughout the entire length of coastline, and they've made
it very clear that they would like to see the West Coast version of the Marine
Life Protection Act (MLPA) extended into other coastal U.S. waters," he said.
The release said that
targeted marine areas moving forward include Indonesia, Colombia, Costa Rica,
Ecuador, Panama, the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico.
"Here's an organization which has publicly
opposed creation of artificial reefs used by Wal-Mart's tackle buyers, in some
cases openly advocating for their removal, yet the Walton family is handing over
tons of money for support," Donofrio said of Ocean Conservancy in
"Shopping for fishing
equipment at Wal-Mart is contributing directly to the demise of our sport, it's
supporting lost fishing opportunities and decreased coastal access for all
Americans," Donofrio said, adding "I hope all RFA members across the country
will remember that when it's time to gear up, but I would also wonder if perhaps
our industry can help spread the message and support our local tackle shops by
also pulling product off Wal-Mart's shelves."
In April, RFA announced its
support of a national boycott of the Safeway Supermarket chain (which also
includes Genuardi's in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) because of that
corporation's support for California's MLPA initiative. "Apparently Safeway has
gotten some bad advice from the people in the ocean protection racket, a
community to which the California-based mega-corporation is now donating
profits," said Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the RFA. "Safeway
says it is supporting groups that make a difference like the Food Marketing
Institute's Sustainable Seafood Working Group, the Conservation Alliance for
Seafood Solutions and the World Wildlife Fund's Aquaculture Dialogues, but it's
little more than corporate greenwashing."
RFA believes it's time that
Wal-Mart was added to the angler boycott list as well.
"The Walton family created
this huge corporate entity which has threatened the vibrancy of our local retail
outlets, and now they're essentially doing the same thing with our fishing
communities," Donofrio said. "Much like Safeway has done with their financial
investment in the environmental business community, Wal-Mart apparently prefers
customers buy farm-raised fish and seafood caught by foreign countries outside
of U.S. waters, while denying individual anglers the ability to head down to the
ocean to score a few fish for their own table."
According to the official
release, the Walton Family Foundation is also working "to create economic
incentives for ocean conservation," while candidly pledging their support for
"projects that reverse the incentives to fish unsustainably that exist in 'open
access fisheries' by creating catch share programs."
"Our local outfitters and
tackle shops along the coast have had to face an immense challenge by going up
against Wal-Mart's purchasing power during the last decade, but now that the
Walton family is so up front about their opposition to open access fisheries,
it's hard for me to believe that any sportsmen would ever be interested in
shopping there again," Donofrio said.
"California anglers have
been outraged to learn that money they spend at a Safeway grocery store might
end up in the hands of extremist, anti-fishing groups like the EDF and the Ocean
Conservancy, I hope more anglers will join the national boycott by sending a
message to Wal-Mart as well as Safeway," Martin added.
According to the Walton
Family Foundation website, Sam and Helen Walton launched their "modest retail
business in 1962" with guiding principle of helping "increase opportunity
and improve the lives of others along the way." It is that principle the
foundation says, that makes them "more focused than ever on sustaining the
Walton's timeless small-town values and deep commitment to making life better
for individuals and communities alike."
RFA said grassroots efforts
to combat the anti-fishing agenda are more than just an uphill climb. "The EDF
catch share coffers are already filled to the top, while Pew Charitable Trusts
has billions in reserve," Donofrio said. "When you add another $36 million
annual commitment from the Walton family each year, I can't see how our local
efforts can get anywhere unless the national manufacturers step up and openly
denounce this corporate takeover once and for all."
"The individual anglers and
local business owners are being denied opportunity, and I hope the federal trade
representatives are willing to get onboard with their support of real small-town
values," Donofrio said, adding that Ocean Conservancy and EDF combined received
more than $10 million in Walton Family Foundation grants in 2010.