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Whole Foods Focuses on Sustainable Seafood

Whole Foods Focuses on Sustainable Seafood

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Here’s the official news from Whole Foods as they focus on sustainable seafood:

Whole Foods Market today launches an in-store color-coded sustainability-rating program for wild-caught seafood and commits to phasing out all red-rated species by Earth Day 2013. Through partnerships with Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, Whole Foods Market is the first national grocer to provide a comprehensive sustainability rating system for wild-caught seafood.

Blue Ocean and Monterey Bay Aquarium are highly respected for the strength of their science-based seafood programs. Both organizations evaluate species and the fishing fleets that catch them, based on life history, abundance, habitat impacts, fishery management practices and bycatch.

Green or “best choice” ratings indicate that a species is relatively abundant and caught in environmentally-friendly ways;
Yellow or “good alternative” means some concerns exist with the species’ status or catch methods;
Red or “avoid” means that for now, the species is suffering from overfishing, or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats.

The color-coded ratings offer shoppers transparent information about the sustainability status of wild-caught seafood. Anyone can go online and review complete species and fishery evaluations.

The new program expands upon the partnership that Whole Foods Market has had with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) since 1999, and the new ratings apply only to non-MSC-certified fish. The MSC is the world’s leading certification body for sustainable wild-caught seafood, and its blue ecolabel identifies wild-caught seafood products that are MSC-certified.

The company’s new wild-caught seafood rating program and partnerships will complement its existing farmed seafood standards, which remain the highest in the industry. Farmed seafood at Whole Foods Market carries the “Responsibly Farmed” logo to indicate that it meets these high standards.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 80 percent of global fisheries are fully exploited, overfished, or depleted. Whole Foods Market’s goal is to work with the passion of its customers, the commitment of its skilled seafood buyers, and the dedication of its many seafood suppliers to help reverse this trend.

Whole Foods Market began working with MSC in 1999 and continues to partner with the world’s leading certification for sustainable seafood, which uses a multi-stakeholder, international market-based approach to provide incentives for fisheries to address key issues such as overfishing and bycatch. A blue ecolabel identifies MSC-certified seafood.
Whole Foods Market maintains the highest farmed seafood standards in the industry and requires third-party audits and traceability from hatchery to market. They prohibit use of antibiotics, added growth hormones, added preservatives like sulfites and phosphates, genetically modified seafood, and land animal by-products in feed.

Whole Foods Market previously stopped selling especially vulnerable red-rated species such as non-MSC-certified Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, bluefin tuna, sharks, and marlins (with the exception of Hawaii-caught blue marlin, sold in Hawaii stores).

All swordfish and tuna from red-rated fisheries will be eliminated from seafood counters by Earth Day 2011. By Earth Day 2012, all other seafood from red-rated fisheries will be discontinued with the exception of Atlantic cod and sole, which will be sold through Earth Day 2013.

“We’re delighted to help Whole Foods Market expand its commitment to offering seafood from sustainable sources. Whole Foods Market is a leader in the field, and its decision will have a real impact on seafood suppliers and other retailers. Its in-store education and commitment to phase out red-rated seafood will help raise awareness and improve fishing practices around the world.”
– Michael Sutton, Vice President of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who oversees its Seafood Watch program, montereybayaquarium.org.

“Blue Ocean Institute applauds Whole Foods Market’s continued commitment to consumer education. Our rankings represent authoritative science that examines the key factors affecting the health of ocean populations. The rankings on the Whole Foods Market signs reflect the efforts of seafood science experts. Each also represents information consumers can understand and trust. This partnership will give seafood lovers the tools they need, where they need them—at the seafood counter—to make informed choices on behalf of ocean-friendly seafood.”
– Dr. Carl Safina, MacArthur Fellow and Founder of Blue Ocean Institute.

“At the end of the day, it’s a team effort. Our customers, buyers, fishermen, and fishery managers can all make smart decisions that move us in the direction of greater sustainability. The new color-coded rating system is a transparent way to provide sustainability status information. This new program, along with our promise to phase out red-rated species, deepens our commitment to having fully sustainable seafood departments.”
– Carrie Brownstein, Whole Foods Market Seafood Quality Standards Coordinator.

View Comment (1)
  • This is awesome. I hope the fishing industry will take notice and be encouraged by consumer demand to provide products that are more sustainable. I will definitely be buying my fish at Whole Food from now on.

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