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The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Catch the Reel Big News: No Red-Rated Seafood

At Whole Foods Market, we’ve been saying that our mission is to sell only wild-caught fish that has been responsibly caught. For a few years now, we’ve used color-coded sustainability ratings, from green (best choice) to red (avoid), to help you make an informed choice.

Now we’re putting our mackerel where our mouth is: To support greater abundance in our oceans, we're no longer carrying red-rated wild-caught seafood!

That’s right, beginning this Earth Day — April 22 — we will no longer carry red-rated wild-caught fish in our seafood departments. This move, which comes one year ahead of our self-imposed deadline of Earth Day 2013, makes us the first national grocer to stop selling red-rated seafood.

Back in 1999 Whole Foods Market was the first US retailer to offer Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified seafood, and each year we continue to offer our customers more and more MSC-certified seafood options.

Wild-caught seafood from fisheries certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council is the top choice for sustainability, and we offer the widest selection available, from Alaska salmon and Pacific halibut to Nova Scotia harpoon-caught swordfish and Pacific cod. We’ve also got plenty of MSC-certified frozen fillets, seafood appetizers and more that are easy on the wallet and simple to prepare.

Since 2010, we’ve worked with the nonprofit research organizations Blue Ocean Institute (BOI) and Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) to display their color-coded sustainability ratings to help our customers make informed choices when selecting wild-caught seafood.

(Your local store has chosen to display ratings by either BOI or MBA. Please note that the ratings have slight differences.)

  • Green / best choice: species are abundant and caught in environmentally friendly ways
  • Yellow / good alternative: species with some concerns about their status or catch methods
  • Red / avoid: species suffer from overfishing or the current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats

As of April 22, all our wild-caught seafood is either certified by the MSC, or is yellow or green-rated. That means we’ll no longer sell the following red-rated species:

  • Atlantic Halibut
  • Grey Sole (Atlantic)
  • Octopus (all)
  • Skate Wing
  • Sturgeon
  • Swordfish (from specific areas and catch methods rated “red” by our partners)
  • Tautog
  • Trawl-caught Atlantic Cod
  • Tuna (from from specific areas and catch methods rated “red” by our partners)
  • Turbot
  • Imported wild shrimp
  • Rockfish (only certain species)

Also, if you weren’t aware, we haven’t sold orange roughy, shark or blue fin tuna for several years. By eliminating red-rated seafood, we’re doing our part to reverse trends of overfishing and bycatch, and we believe that together, with our partners and customers, we can spark (pardon the pun) a sea change.

If you’re looking for responsibly sourced alternatives to your usual seafood choice, our skilled fishmongers will gladly give you their recommendations. They can also fillet, cut-to-order and provide cooking tips and recipe ideas, too. We’re concerned with environmentally friendly farm-raised seafood, too. Learn more about our strict Quality Standards for Aquaculture on our website.

We’re very excited about this change at our seafood counters and want to know what you think. Does responsibly caught seafood matter to you?