Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Greenpeace Ranks Whole Foods Market #1 For Seafood Sustainability

Greenpeace ranked us #1 again in their annual ranking of seafood sustainability at US supermarkets! It’s an honor to be recognized by Greenpeace for our seafood industry leadership. We work hard to set the bar high for responsible aquaculture and fishery practices and are committed to supporting the supplier partners who are on the water helping to maintain abundant fish populations and ecosystems for future generations.

Greenpeace’s 2014 Carting Away the Oceans (CATO) VIII report ranks 26 major retailers in four areas: policy, initiatives, labeling and transparency and red-list inventory. For the fourth time in eight years, Whole Foods Market earned the top spot, claiming both the highest overall score and the strongest sustainable seafood policy.

Our strict purchasing policies for wild-caught fish, partnerships with leading scientific organizations, public advocacy, pioneering transparency with standards and labeling, traceability in the supply chain, customer education, fishmonger expertise and industry-leading aquaculture standards combined demonstrate our continued leadership in seafood sustainability.

Here’s a quick rundown on our policies and seafood offerings that Greenpeace reviewed and scored.

Wild-Caught

We excelled in the Sustainable Seafood Policy category of the report, earning the highest score of any retailer.

We purchase as much wild-caught seafood as possible from fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). For fisheries not MSC-certified, we only source from fisheries rated either a “Best Choice” (green) or “Good Alternative” (yellow) by Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) and Blue Ocean Institute (BOI). In 2012, we banned red-rated species in our stores — the first national grocer to make this stand.

Canned Tuna

Greenpeace called out our selection of sustainable canned tuna as the best of any major US retailer, an impactful category for sustainability since America is the largest canned tuna market in the world.

Our new Pole & Line Caught tuna is the most sustainable canned tuna option on the market. The fish in every can is caught one at a time using the pole and line method, which eliminates bycatch of marine mammals, sharks, and turtles. These vulnerable, and in some cases protected species, are caught in tuna fisheries that use less selective fishing methods. And with the fisherman’s signature on each can, shoppers can trace exactly where their fish came from.

Farmed Fish

Greenpeace praised our strict Quality Standards for Aquaculture and third-party verification process to ensure that farmed fish come from the world's leaders in environmentally responsible aquaculture.

Labeling and Transparency

Greenpeace ranked us highly for pioneering case signs with sustainability ratings from MBA and BOI, as well as for our posters, pamphlets, knowledgeable fishmongers, online resources and transparent Quality Standards.

Also of note is our rigorous full traceability from fishery to store, dedicated port buyers selecting fish directly from the docks, and our own seafood processing facilities to create a direct connection to seafood sources.

Red-Listed

Greenpeace scored retailers on their sale of “Red List” seafood, 22 marine species they deem to be the most destructively caught or endangered. We were criticized for selling 14 species on their Red List, although they also note that, “Whole Foods has dropped the sale of species that most other retailers still carry, employs a variety of mitigation tools that dampen the harm of carrying an unmitigated Red List product, and participates in several fishery/aquaculture improvement projects.”

Our sourcing decisions for wild-caught seafood are based on our partners’ scientific evaluations and ratings of specific fisheries — the particular area where the fish are caught and the status of the fish population in that area, the effectiveness of management, and the method of catch — not based on the species in general.

We do not carry any wild-caught seafood from fisheries rated red by MBA and BOI.

MSC Certified

Greenpeace also called out an “over-reliance” on Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified products and challenges us to use our partnership to influence MSC’s process.

We do work on MSC policy through our role on the MSC Stakeholder Council. We chose the MSC as our partner for fishery certification because of the strength of their international, multi-stakeholder process for developing and implementing standards for fisheries as well as the required third-party chain of custody certification to ensure traceability. We believe that the MSC sustainable seafood certification program is the strongest tool for bringing about changes in fisheries worldwide.

Thanks to Greenpeace for their work on this report and for highlighting that “supermarkets are one of our strongest connections to the oceans.” We agree and will continue to do our part in helping to restore our marine and coastal ecosystems and build a more sustainable seafood market.