Whole Foods says it is the first national grocer to provide a comprehensive sustainability rating system for wild-caught seafood.
Other retailers have launched sustainable seafood rating systems including Publix, Target and Safeway.
Based on a three-color rating system, Whole Foods’ green or “best choice” rating indicates 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, and 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 supermarket chain also commits to phasing out all red-rated species by Earth Day 2013.
Anyone can go online and review complete species and fishery evaluations.
The new program expands Whole Foods’ partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) but 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.
Farmed seafood at Whole Foods Market carries the “Responsibly Farmed” logo to indicate that it meets these high standards. 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 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).
The supermarket chain commits to eliminate all swordfish and tuna from red-rated fisheries by Earth Day 2011, and all other seafood from red-rated fisheries by Earth Day 2012 with the exception of Atlantic cod and sole, which will be sold through Earth Day 2013.
Watch the video about Whole Foods Market’s commitment to sustainable seafood.