Whole Story

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Red-Rated Swordfish & Tuna No More!

By Rebecca Joerres, April 22, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Rebecca Joerres
Last September, we unveiled our color-coded, science-based sustainability ratings for wild-caught seafood created by our partners, Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium. At the time, we said that we would seek out ways to source swordfish and tuna more sustainably as part of a larger initiative to move toward fully sustainable seafood departments — and we have! Whole Foods Market’s skilled seafood buyers source tuna and swordfish from green- and yellow-rated fisheries such as those using handlines (a fishing method that uses a single baited line to catch one fish at a time), which have low to no bycatch. One of the new sources of green- and yellow-rated tuna comes from the Maldives in the Indian Ocean where fishermen catch tuna traditionally using a low-impact pole and line. Elsewhere, most tuna is caught with nets or longlines, which can capture not only the targeted catch, but also juvenile tuna and large amounts of bycatch, including threatened or endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks and seabirds, earning some of these fisheries a red-rating. Whole Foods Market buyers have also formed partnerships with a variety of small green-rated swordfish fisheries in the United States — in Florida, for example — and are looking for more. These U.S. day boats also use low-impact handline fishing gear. Scott Taylor, co-owner of Florida-based Day Boat Seafood, one of our suppliers, puts it like this: “We are not only committed to amazingly fresh seafood but to making sure that fish stocks can be replenished so that we can keep fishing responsibly for many years to come. We truly value our partnership with Whole Foods Market because the company has demonstrated a loyalty and genuine commitment to our fishermen, this process and the environment.” The color-coded ratings in our seafood department make it easy for our customers informed choices. Green or “best choice” ratings indicate a species is relatively abundant and is caught in environmentally-friendly ways; yellow or “good alternative” ratings mean some concerns exist with the species’ status or catch methods; and red or “avoid” ratings mean that for now the species is suffering from overfishing, or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats. The ratings supplement the sustainable seafood partnership that Whole Foods Market has had with the Marine Stewardship Council since 1999. We love how our customers flex their buying power to prompt change and help reverse trends of overfishing, exploitation and depletion in so many fisheries. Whole Foods Market is proud of our partnerships with Blue Ocean Institute, Monterey Bay Aquarium, MSC and with our buyers, fishermen and fishery managers. We are thrilled to have found fisheries that can provide better environmental choices to support the ecological health of our oceans and the abundance of marine life for generations to come. And, we will continue to seek out more sustainable sources of all red-rated wild-caught seafood, which will be phased out of our stores by Earth Day 2012 (with the exception of Atlantic cod and sole that are slated for phase out by Earth Day 2013). This timing gives us the opportunity to evaluate the red-rated fisheries to see if changes can be made to improve fishing practices. Some fishermen have worked with us for many years so it's a partnership and a process that takes a little time to change. Whole Foods Market’s wild-caught seafood rating program and partnerships complement its existing farmed seafood standards, which remain the highest in the industry. The company requires third-party audits and traceability from farm to market and prohibits use of antibiotics, added growth hormones, added preservatives like sulfites and phosphates, genetically-modified seafood and land animal by-products in feed. Farmed seafood at Whole Foods Market carries the “Responsibly Farmed” logo to indicate it meets these high standards. Curious about handline fishing? Watch this video. Tell us what you think! Is sustainability important to you when it comes to your seafood purchases?
Category: Green Action, Seafood




mike says ...
i wish whole foods would stop selling all types of sea food fresh/frozen that has the red classification
04/23/2011 11:50:51 AM CDT
Grace P says ...
This is fantastic. I love WholeFood's commitment to sustainable fishing--it's the only place I'll buy seafood!
04/24/2011 11:39:18 AM CDT
Augusto Sparatore says ...
Dear Sirs, I have been lately disappointed by the quality and freshness of your "FRESH CALAMARIES WITH TENTACLES" and "BLACK MUSSELS" I usually buy every week. usually on wednesday afternoon or thursay morning.Calamaries were stinking and I had to disposal and out of 2 lbs of Mussels I had to use only a third of them. Sorry to report You this as I am a good customer of WORLD FOOD @ Veterans Blvd in Metairie,La. and I am sure You will people in charge take care of this matter. regards augusto sparatore
04/27/2011 6:09:14 PM CDT
B. Miller says ...
For several years, Whole Foods has been the only store I trust to buy seafood.
04/27/2011 6:25:14 PM CDT
Shelly Little Feather says ...
Congratulations on being the leader in sustainable fish. I hope you are also avoiding the Canadian fishermen that are slaughtering baby seals. I will not buy anything from those barbaric people.
04/27/2011 6:38:20 PM CDT
Teresa Sendra-Anagnost says ...
This is quite impressive. It will increase the variety of fish we feel better about purchasing. Good luck Whole Foods and thank you.
04/27/2011 6:54:33 PM CDT
Dianne Brown says ...
Wonderful news! I don't buy seafood anywhere but Whole Foods! Quality plus outstanding service:)
04/27/2011 8:32:21 PM CDT
jillian says ...
Yes, this is of utmost importance! Thank you for your work. I would rather go without then contribute to harmful practices. I'm still not happy about getting fish from so far away and probably won't buy it, but I'm happy for the advances you are making. Keep it up! Consider only selling green rated fish. How can we convince other folks that paying more for responsibly caught fish is important? Especially when folks are hurting financially? Keep up the great budget money saving recipes!
04/27/2011 10:13:12 PM CDT
Ann says ...
Just as Whole Foods is the only place I'll buy meat, eggs and dairy, it is the only place I'll buy seafood. What plans do you have to give us more informaiton on dairy products other than that they are organic?
04/28/2011 7:54:20 AM CDT
Lindsay says ...
I agree with Mike. Even Costco and Target no longer sell RED List Species that Whole Foods continues to sell. If Whole Foods really wanted to commit to sustainable and responsible fishing they would change their policies to keep up with other major US retailers.
04/28/2011 8:07:51 AM CDT
MerylB says ...
Thank you for this, as our populations of sharks, dolphins, blue fin tuna, & many others are being decimated I have contemplated giving up seafood. This eases my mind. Thank you again for being conscientious!
04/28/2011 12:21:45 PM CDT
MerylB says ...
Also, I agree that Whole Foods can make a difference & only sell green labeled fish, Let's try!
04/28/2011 12:24:22 PM CDT
CC says ...
Thank you for this commitment! I want our world to be protected as much as possible so that my grandchildren can enjoy it as much as I have. This is a major challenge with population growth, and the need to feed so many people. What do we do for the masses, that can't afford to buy your sustainable seafood?
04/30/2011 5:43:32 AM CDT
nancy loev says ...
What about mercury content in swordfish? Can you please address that. Thanks.
05/01/2011 5:42:22 PM CDT
Cynthia says ...
I agree with Mike and Lindsay in that Whole Foods should only sell green label items. Given that you are a leader in organic produce and are doing the ratings for meat, it only makes sense that you follow the same practice with your seafood.
07/07/2011 12:47:02 PM CDT
bepkom says ...
@Cynthia: That's what we're working towards. This is a process which takes time. We don't want to compromise the strong relationships we've cultivated with our fisherman and suppliers, so we're allowing for time for them to find more sustainable methods.
07/07/2011 2:51:03 PM CDT
Bengal#1 says ...
Bought canned tuns said processed and packed in Thailand, due to the japan nuclear melt down, fish in that area are radio active, source from dr oz show, why not get tuna from the east coast
02/11/2014 2:34:05 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@BENGAL - Our stores should have a variety of tuna options. Were you able to ask the store if they have other sources for their tuna?
02/11/2014 6:07:14 PM CST