Whole Foods Stops Selling Red-Labeled Fish a Year Early

Whole Foods Market announced it will eliminate almost all red-flagged, unsustainable seafood options from its stores a year ahead of its self-imposed April 2013 deadline. Atlantic cod and sole, also red-flagged species, will be removed from stores in 2013. 

They had made a commitment to eliminate red-listed seafood by April of 2013 but have announced that they are on track to meet that goal a year early.

The grocery store chain has teamed up with OWOO partners the Blue Ocean Institute and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, which publish seafood guides rating fish products for their sustainability. The ocean conservation groups color-code fish as green, yellow, or red. Red denotes fish that are unsustainable and should be avoided by consumers. Yellow labeled fish may have some issues with sustainability or insufficient data to determine sustainability, and green represents the most sustainable selections.

This is part of the growing trend of grocery store chains marketing sustainable seafood options. Safeway, does not sell red-listed species and is working towards greater traceability, Wegmans, has eliminated certain red-list species and largely sells MSC-certified seafood, and Target, announced it will sell only sustainable and traceable seafood by 2015. Numerous other franchises have joined the movement as well. Safeway and Wegmans have also stopped carrying seafood caught in the Ross Sea, in support of efforts to designate the region as a Marine Protected Area. 

Whole Foods Market will suspend sales of red-listed items, by this Earth Day, April 22, continuing the chain’s trend of making policy changes in favor of sustainability. In 1999 they began to sell some seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a sustainable fisheries certification program. Last year they eliminated red-listed swordfish and tuna from their seafood offering, and more recently have eliminated other extremely overfished species like Chilean seabass and shark.

Whole Foods also began labeling all seafood products red, yellow, or green in order to help consumers make informed choices. 

You can learn more about your local grocery stores through Greenpeace, which compiles a searchable database rating franchises on the sustainability of their fish counters.


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