The Seafood Sustainability Rating Program also indicates if the fish are caught in an environmentally-friendly way. (Photo: Whole Foods Market)
Whole Foods Market launches sustainability rating scheme
Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
Whole Foods Market has introduced the first in-store color coded sustainability rating programme for wild-caught seafood, and has committed to stop selling all red-rated species by Earth Day 2013. The grocer is partnering with Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium to offer the comprehensive sustainability rating system.
Blue Ocean and Monterey Bay Aquarium evaluate fishing fleets and the species they catch based on life history, abundance, impact on habitats, fishery management and bycatch.
"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," affirmed Dr Carl Safina, founder of Blue Ocean Institute.
Green or "best choice" ratings indicate that a species is relatively plentiful and caught in environmentally-friendly ways; yellow or "good alternative" points to some concerns with the species' status or catch methods; and red or "avoid" means the species is being overfished or that its fishing methods damage other marine life or ecosystems.
The color-coded ratings provide shoppers with transparent information about the sustainability status of wild-caught seafood. Complete species and fishery evaluations are available on Whole Foods’s website.
The programme builds upon the company’s partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) started in 1999, such that the new ratings apply only to non-MSC-certified seafood.
Whole Foods’s farmed seafood already carries the "Responsibly Farmed" logo to show that it meets its high farmed seafood standards, which the company says are the highest in the industry. The grocer demands third-party audits and traceability from hatchery to market and bans the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones, added preservatives, genetically modified seafood and land animal byproducts in fish feed.
“[Whole Foods’s] in-store education and commitment to phase out red-rated seafood will help raise awareness and improve fishing practices around the world,” said Michael Sutton, Vice President of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who oversees its Seafood Watch programme.
As the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) informs that 80 per cent of global fisheries are fully overfished or depleted, Whole Foods intends to work to help reverse this trend.
Whole Foods previously stopped selling especially vulnerable red-rated species such as non-MSC-certified Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, bluefin tuna and sharks.
All swordfish and tuna from red-rated fisheries will go off the firm’s seafood counters by Earth Day 2011 and, by Earth Day 2012, all other seafood from red-rated fisheries will be discontinued except for Atlantic cod and sole, which will be sold through Earth Day of the following year.
The Blue Ocean Institute created the first sustainable seafood guide that is also scientifically transparent and forged a sustainable seafood movement it touts as noteworthy and quickly expanding.
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By Natalia Real