It just got easier to choose ocean-friendly seafood at the supermarket.
Whole Foods Market announced today that it is partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and Blue Ocean Institute to label all the wild-caught seafood in its North American stores according to the sustainability criteria of our science-based organizations.
That means you'll see green Best Choice, yellow Good Alternative and red Avoid labels next to EVERY item in the seafood case, and similar information (using Whole Foods' own criteria) for farmed seafood.
Whole Foods has also pledged to eliminate all red-list seafood by Earth Day 2013.
"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 seafood sustainability," said Carrie Brownstein, Whole Foods Market seafood quality standards coordinator.
"Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium are both highly respected for the strength of their science-based seafood programs which evaluate fisheries on life history, abundance, habitat impacts, management practices and bycatch. The new color-coded rating system is a transparent way to display sustainable choices, and it deepens our commitment to having fully sustainable seafood departments."
Whole Foods Market joins two other significant Aquarium partners: Compass Group and ARAMARK, the two largest food-service companies in North America. Like Whole Foods, they have pledged to phase out red-ranked seafood in the next several years, and are shifting their purchases toward more sustainable items.
Other retailers and food service operators are announcing similar commitments -- and creating market incentives for fishing fleets and aquaculture producers to supply seafood that doesn't harm the health of the wild oceans.
In fact, regional retailers like New Leaf Community Markets -- working with another Seafood Watch partner, Santa Cruz-based FishWise -- have been labeling seafood in the case for years. FishWise is also helping major retailers (including Safeway) shift their purchases to more sustainable choices.
"We’re delighted to help Whole Foods Market expand its commitment to offering seafood from sustainable sources," said Michael Sutton, who oversees the Aquarium's Seafood Watch program. "Whole Foods Market is a leader in the field, and its decision will have a real impact on seafood suppliers and other retailers.
Commitments by major buyers like these is one of the hopeful trends we identified last year in our comprehensive report, Turning the Tide: The State of Seafood. With the Whole Foods' announcement, the tide continues to turn -- in a positive direction.