Whole Story

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Sound Solutions to Red-Rated Seafood

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, April 14, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 80 percent of fisheries are fully exploited, overfished, depleted or recovering from depletion. With seafood growing in demand, it’s critical that everyone gets on board to reverse this trend and build a more responsible seafood supply chain.

What is Whole Foods Market doing? We recently announced that as of Earth Day 2012 — April 22 — we will no longer carry red-rated wild-caught fish in our seafood departments! Wild-caught seafood from fisheries certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the top choice for sustainability and we offer the widest selection available.

Plus, we display the color-coded sustainability ratings of our partners, Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) and Blue Ocean Institute (BOI), on all wild-caught seafood that’s not certified by MSC to help customers make informed choices.

  • 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 suffers from overfishing or the current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats

By no longer carrying red-rated species, all our wild-caught seafood will either be yellow or green-rated or certified by the MSC. This is our way of supporting our oceans.

What can you do? By purchasing wild-caught seafood that is certified by the MSC or yellow or green-rated, not only will you take home a delicious piece of fish but also the peace of mind that you are doing your part to ensure fish for future generations.

If you’re looking for ocean-friendly alternatives to commonly purchased red-rated species, here are some great options.

Red-rated Species: Trawl-caught Atlantic cod Choose instead: Line-caught cod or MSC-certified Pacific cod

Red-rated Species: Octopus Choose instead: Calamari (squid): green-or yellow-rated by BOI, depending on the fishery

Red-rated Species: Grey sole Choose instead: Dover sole: yellow-rated by BOI or MBA

Red-rated Species: Swordfish Choose instead: Swordfish from MSC-certified fisheries, such as harpoon fisheries in Nova Scotia or the Florida handline/landline fisheries

Red-rated Species: Yellowfin tuna Choose instead: Tuna from Maldives: green-rated by BOI or MBA

Red-rated Species: Sturgeon Choose instead: Responsibly Farmed Trout sold at our stores

Red-rated Species: Turbot Choose instead: MSC-certified Pacific halibut

Red-rated Species: Tautog Choose instead: US-caught yellowtail snapper: green-rated by BOI or MBA

Red-rated Species: Skate wing Choose instead: Atlantic flounder: yellow-rated by BOI or MBA

Red-rated Species: Atlantic halibut Choose instead: MSC-certified Pacific halibut

Red-rated Species: Imported wild-caught shrimp Choose instead: Domestic wild-caught shrimp: yellow- or green-rated by BOI or MBA depending upon US location

Our skilled fishmongers will gladly give you their recommendations. They can also fillet, cut-to-order and provide cooking tips and recipe ideas, too. So, if you’re ready to swap out red-rated seafood for a better choice, try these recipes featuring green- or yellow- rated species. Learn more about what to substitute for red-rated species and how to cook them during our tweet chat with Chef Michel Nischan. Use the hashtag #WFMFish to follow the conversation. Learn how to chat with us.

Tweet Chat with Chef Michel Nischan – April 26 at 6 p.m. CST

Fishing for more information? Visit wholefoodsmarket.com/wfmfish to read more about our sustainable seafood initiative including our strict Quality Standards for Aquaculture.

Have you already made the conscious choice to only purchase wild-caught seafood that is relatively abundant and caught in environmentally friendly ways? Tell us about it.




Tiffany says ...
Love Atlantic flounder, these are great options!
04/18/2012 6:51:53 PM CDT
Thom Riker says ...
Telling people to replace Octopus with Squid is one of the worst suggestions i have ever heard. The taste and texture of each is not comparable to the other. Compared to Octopus, Squid has more than double the cholesterol, about half the protein, contains fat, and has much less vitamins/minerals. I hope in the future that you do a bit more research before throwing out such a terrible idea.
04/18/2012 7:02:31 PM CDT
Mimi says ...
Thank you Whole Foods for finally ending the sale of any RED tag fish....NEXT, we hope and pray that the corporation? team members will actively pursue the safety of the food that it does sell from all the oceans ......Gulf Shrimp and seafood are at the top of my concern list, closely followed by Pacific fish which are supposedly existing in a very radioactive environment post Fukushima. WIll you both keep us informed on this as well as ask consumers/shoppers to SUPPORT your actions to protect what is left of our environment?! thank you again, WFM for 30 years of conscientious leadership on organics and food safety.
04/18/2012 7:07:28 PM CDT
Richard Heilman says ...
Truly sad to see some of my favorite fish on this list, such as octopus, Mexican wild shrimp, and swordfish, but I applaud your decision to bring awareness for the overfishing that applies to all these and other species. Unfortunate, too, that we will see ever-higher prices for all fish thanks to our overpopulated world. Hard to believe we can't even afford local Pacific spiny lobster any longer since 95% of it is going to Asia to satisfy their demand with wholesale prices passing the $20/lb mark. One item you should definitely discontinue is farm-raised salmon - it has been proven time and again that the fat and genetically inferior farmed often escape from their pens and then interbreed with wild salmon, consistently lowering the gene-pool of wild stock. You should ONLY be selling wild caught salmon in your stores.
04/18/2012 7:20:34 PM CDT
Yolanda's says ...
Well that explains last months big sale of shrimp....
04/18/2012 7:39:58 PM CDT
DR. richard Lazar says ...
Dan Thomas et al, Congratulations. This is great. I can suggest that u get Monterey Bay Aquarium to provide u with their pocket guide to give away to customers.I carry my Southeast USA guide with me to Whole Foods and every restaurant I go to. When traveling I download a guide for the region I am in. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much safety there was in Florida and the Gulf shrimp and other fish when my wife and I visited Key West last month. It provides 3 categories...Recommended, Alternatives ( as U did here) and Avoid [Red). Peace of Mind baby. Thanks again Whole Foods.
04/18/2012 7:40:38 PM CDT
Ali M says ...
Thank you for making the decision to make these changes. I like to think I make good decisions at the seafood counter and out at restaurants even when it's not that easy. I appreciate the code system to help interested people like myself shop sustainably.
04/18/2012 9:29:07 PM CDT
Ben says ...
Those looking for a substitute for North Atlantic Red Ranked Cod may also want to consider the MSC Certified Norwegian Cod fillet if its available! (this has been widely available in the New England area for the last couple of months!! As for Halibut: for areas where there is not a great deal of MSC pacific halibut fresh (as is the case in the WFM where i work/shop), the :Whole Catch" line of products offers a great frozen MSC Alaskan Halibut.
04/18/2012 10:55:16 PM CDT
Sue says ...
Is there an alternative for Rockfish?
04/19/2012 3:50:16 AM CDT
Nancy Lopin says ...
Makes me love Whole foods even more and proud to be a Whole Foods shopper.
04/19/2012 5:44:22 AM CDT
Nancy L. says ...
I love seeing Whole Foods take a stand like this. Makes me love Whole foods even more and makes me feel proud to be a Whole Foods shopper.
04/19/2012 5:46:20 AM CDT
Megan says ...
@Sue Halibut might be a good substitution for rockfish, as they are both firm white fish!
04/19/2012 9:06:18 AM CDT
Meatbun543 says ...
Great job done! Glad to know that you guys are taking the lead. Hope more stores will follow up!
04/19/2012 11:57:11 AM CDT
damselflydiary says ...
What about salmon? Is that a "safe" fish to eat? It's my favorite.
04/19/2012 12:19:38 PM CDT
Sam Marshall says ...
Thom needs to lighten up, red is dead, or soon. I know they taste difference but your comment is akin to saying that chicken is not as tasty as eagle. Great suggestion by Dr. Lazar, the pocket guide would be a great idea.
04/19/2012 5:15:11 PM CDT
Carole D. says ...
I am very glad there will only be more wildcaught fish Thank you.
04/19/2012 7:47:25 PM CDT
Samara says ...
Surprised that you even did so up to this point,good move but why did you take so long??
04/19/2012 11:45:27 PM CDT
Mary Anne says ...
Awesome news! How about canned tuna now?
04/22/2012 7:30:38 AM CDT
Barbara says ...
Is there a substitute for the Sea Bass I used to be able to purchase and cannot find? I don't mean those large Sea Bass from Chile, which I neither trust nor would eat.
05/01/2012 8:12:56 AM CDT
Megan says ...
@Barbara Do you mean grouper, which is sometimes known as sea bass? According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, US-sourced Mahi Mahi is a good substitution.
05/02/2012 3:20:10 PM CDT
Dfeson says ...
I just found your blog on Ask Jeeves, a really good read.
08/13/2012 12:28:56 AM CDT
sArarn says ...
Hmmm for some reason only half the post can be seen. I tried reloading but still same.
08/15/2012 9:26:58 AM CDT
nikki.newman says ...
@SARARN - Sorry for the technical problems. We are working out some bugs with our website redesign which might delay the loading of some of our posts. Please check back later today or tomorrow as we hope to have the kinks worked out.
08/15/2012 11:38:20 AM CDT