Whole Foods Market to stop selling red-rated seafood by Earth Day

Posted on March 30, 2012 by

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Becomes first national grocer to eliminate red-rated, wild-caught species from fish counters, meets seafood sustainability goal one year early ‘Fishmonger Face-Off’ contest to highlight team members’ skill and knowledge while educating shoppers on responsibly caught seafood.

NEW YORK (March 30, 2012) – Beginning this Earth Day (April 22), Whole Foods Market will no longer carry red-rated wild-caught fish in its seafood departments. The move, which comes one year ahead of the company’s self-imposed deadline of Earth Day 2013, makes Whole Foods Market the first national grocer to stop selling red-rated seafood.

A red rating indicates that a species is suffering from overfishing or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats; the ratings are determined by nonprofit research organizations Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Since 2010, Whole Foods Market has worked with the two groups to display their color-coded sustainability ratings to help customers make informed choices when selecting wild-caught seafood. Each of the company’s regions has chosen to display ratings by either Monterey Bay Aquarium or Blue Ocean Institute.

“We are now able to offer more sustainable seafood choices than ever before, and we are thrilled that our suppliers have worked with us so swiftly to find high-quality green- and yellow-rated seafood so we could not only meet, but beat our deadline. This shift allows us to promote and highlight fisheries that use responsible fishing methods and source from areas where fish are most abundant and fisheries are well-managed,” said David Pilat, Whole Foods Market’s global seafood buyer. “Through collaborations with the Marine Stewardship Council, Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium (SeaChoice in Canada), we offer our shoppers information to help them make conscious seafood choices for themselves, their families and our oceans.”

Whole Foods Market continues to offer one of the widest selections of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish such as Alaska salmon, Pacific halibut, Nova Scotia harpoon-caught swordfish, and Pacific cod. The MSC is the world’s leading international, multi-stakeholder, fishery certification program.

Use of the MSC eco-label remains the company’s primary indicator for seafood sustainability; for wild fish not certified by the MSC, Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s green or “Best Choice” ratings mean the species are abundant and are caught in environmentally friendly ways; yellow or “Good Alternative” indicates some concerns exist with the species’ status or catch methods.

As of April 22, Atlantic halibut, grey sole, skate, and others will no longer be available. Some stores have already eliminated these species from their cases; for years, the company has not sold other species with sustainability concerns such as orange roughy and bluefin tuna.

Whole Foods Market’s knowledgeable fishmongers will help recommend alternatives such as MSC-certified Pacific halibut and yellow-rated Dover sole and Atlantic flounder.

“Our passionate fishmongers are excellent at helping navigate our shoppers toward the best environmental choices. They stand ready to assist with cooking tips and recipe ideas and can cut your fish to order,” said Pilat. “Not only will shoppers take home a delicious piece of fish but also the peace of mind that they are doing their part to ensure fish for future generations. Together with our shoppers and vendor partners, we hope to spark a sea change to reverse overfishing and reduce bycatch.”

To highlight the company’s knowledgeable and skilled fishmongers, Whole Foods Market will host its first-ever “Fishmonger Face-Off” in which North American team members will compete for the title of the company’s top fishmonger. On June 16, the company’s 11 best fishmongers will travel to the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, where they will show off their sharp knives and sharp minds in a series of quick-fire challenges that will test their skills and knowledge of sustainable seafood.

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