Whole Foods Sustainable Seafood Pledge Misleading

"image of fish jumping out of the water"Whole Foods Market announced last week that they will stop selling fish caught from depleted waters or through ecologically damaging methods, a move that comes as supermarkets nationwide try to make their seafood selections more sustainable.

Starting Earth Day, April 22, the natural and organic supermarket chain will no longer carry wild-caught seafood that is “red-rated,” a color code that indicates it is either overfished or caught in a way that harms other species. The ratings are determined by the Blue Ocean Institute, an advocacy group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

Sounds like great news to us ocean lovers, doesn’t it? Well, apparently the initial media reports were inaccurate. I have since come to learn the following facts:

  • Whole Foods are discontinuing the sale of wild caught, red-ranked seafood.
  • This does not make them 100% sustainable, as their farmed seafood (despite having their own ‘aquaculture standard‘ and ecolabel) can still be red-ranked, like net-pen farmed salmon. See this link for info on the issues associated with salmon farming.
  • New Leaf, a local Bay Area grocery store, stopped selling all red-ranked seafood (wild and farmed) years ago.
  • The media coverage is misleading, as everyone now thinks everything they sell is sustainable, which is certainly not the case.

Overall, it’s a great step in the right direction, but it is disappointing that Whole Foods has spun the story to make them look like the best in the industry. They still have a long way to go to achieve that medal (it will be interesting to see where they fall out on the Greenpeace Retailer Scorecard that will be updated next month!) So the lesson here is “consumer beware.” Educate yourself on what is safe to eat. Learn the best questions to ask when shopping for seafood and dining out. Download your very own pocket sized sustainable seafood guide click here.

 

 

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