Sustainable seafood—my correspondence with Coles

Although I prefer to buy my fish fresh, I do like to have some backup options in the freezer. With this in mind I bought a 1 kg pack of Coles Southern Blue Whiting Fillets in early June. I did the usual checks:

Certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)—tick.
Wild caught—tick.
From New Zealand—tick.

One bit of small print I didn’t notice until I got my shopping home was ‘Packed in China’. So on 7 June I wrote a ‘please explain’ letter to Coles Customer Care:

So, the fish is caught in New Zealand waters, sent to China where it is packed and then returned to Australia to be sold in your supermarkets. Why isn’t it processed and packed in this part of the world, in either New Zealand or Australia?

While the actual fish may indeed be sustainably sourced, how does transporting it to China and back constitute an environmentally sustainable practice?

A fortnight later I received this reply.

Coles responded to questions I hadn’t asked—about the quality standards of their supplier’s facility in China—while ignoring the questions I did ask. So I wrote another letter on 24 June asking them to address what I was actually asking. How do all the additional and unnecessary air or sea miles involved in transporting the fish to China and back again contribute to environmental sustainability?

A month later I received a reply. Word for word the same letter they had already sent me. Even the date was unaltered.

On 28 July I wrote a third letter. I reiterated my questions. Pointed out that they were (again) supplying information I had not requested. Asked them not to disregard my query, and to please not send me another form letter.

It’s now the middle of December and I have yet to receive any response from Coles to my third missive. I suspect I won’t. All up, a frustrating and totally unsatisfactory exchange. Coles twice ignored my questions and when I persisted, chose to ignore my letter altogether. Doesn’t say much for their customer relations, does it?