Environmentalists pushing swordfish ban

SAN FRANCISCO: A California environmental group plans to expand its ongoing public-opinion campaign aimed at getting retailers and restaurants to stop selling swordfish.

SAN FRANCISCO: A California environmental group plans to expand its ongoing public-opinion campaign aimed at getting retailers and restaurants to stop selling swordfish.

The Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) has been running the effort, aimed at several California supermarket chains and Red Lobster. The group plans to name other targets at a press conference on Tuesday.

"We definitely want to see this go beyond California's borders," said Doug Israel, project director at the TIRN.

The TIRN has already been targeting Albertson's, Safeway, and Red Lobster with letter-writing campaigns. It wants them to stop selling swordfish and tuna that it contends carry dangerous levels of mercury.

It won a victory recently when the state of California sued several retailers to start labeling such fish as containing dangerous elements. The state's decision came after the TIRN provided test results showing higher-than-acceptable levels of contamination. A California law requires labeling products that contain dangerous elements.

Red Lobster said it only became aware of the group's concerns when it received a letter from it dated January 21.

"We're surprised by the allegations," said Jim DeSimone, VP of communications for the Orlando, FL-based chain.

Red Lobster requires suppliers to deliver swordfish that meet FDA standards regarding mercury levels, and only buys smaller fish to further decrease the possibility of mercury build-up in them, DeSimone said.

New retailer targets will be contacted first to see if they will voluntarily stop carrying mercury-laced fish, Israel said. "We like to first spin this positively, and give them the opportunity to be positive," he said.

The group also plans to demonstrate at a seafood-industry trade show in Boston this March. "It's important that the seafood industry know people care about this," Israel said.

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