Wild-Caught Seafood Sustainability Ratings

We're Not Seeing Red

Oh buoy! As of Earth Day 2012, we no longer carry red-rated wild-caught fish in our seafood departments! It’s our way of supporting our oceans and helping to reverse overfishing trends.

We give you the whole story on the wild-caught fish we sell. 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.

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. And we only carry green- and yellow-rated choices. Red ratings typically suggest that the fish is overfished or caught in ways that harm other marine life or habitats.

We promised to eliminate all wild-caught seafood from red-rated fisheries and we did it—ahead of our deadline. We’ve always been on the leading edge with our commitment to responsibly caught seafood. Years ago we stopped selling species that were extremely depleted in the oceans, such as orange roughy, shark and bluefin tuna.

Now that we’ve phased out seafood from red-rated fisheries, we no longer sell the following:

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

Navigating Sustainability


For wild-caught seafood that is not from MSC-certified fisheries, our stores label their products with the color-coded sustainability ratings of the Blue Ocean Institute or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Find out more about these sustainability ratings systems below and contact your local store to find out which system they use.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® program works to transform the seafood market in ways that support ocean-friendly fishing and fish-farming operations. Seafood Watch® provides science-based seafood recommendations through its website, pocket guides and iPhone app to engage consumers, chefs and major seafood buyers.

Look for these colored labels to indicate the Seafood Watch® rating of each of our wild-caught products:


Abundant, well managed and caught in environmentally friendly ways.

Some concerns with how caught or with health of habitat due to other human impacts.

Presently caught in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

Blue Ocean Institute is a nonprofit organization that works to inspire and promote marine conservation through media, arts, science and education. It shares reliable scientific information to enlighten personal choices, and aims to develop conservation solutions that are compassionate to people and ocean wildlife alike.

Look for these colored labels to indicate the Blue Ocean Institute’s rating.


Relatively abundant; fishing method causes little damage.

Some problems exist with abundance or fishing method.

Low abundance; fishing method seriously harms other wildlife or natural habitats.

Frequently asked questions about the wild-caught seafood sustainability ratings program

Why is Whole Foods Market only partnering with the Blue Ocean Institute (BOI) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) and not other organizations?

We selected these partners because they are highly respected for the strength of their science-based seafood programs. Both groups are unique for their transparent ranking methods and both groups post their fishery evaluations online so that anyone can see them. While our Canadian stores are partnering with SeaChoice due to the popularity and visibility of that organization in Canada, SeaChoice color ratings are entirely based on the MBA program.

Why hasn’t Whole Foods Market developed its own standards for wild-caught seafood, like you have for farmed fish?

Our customers are eager to know, without delay, if the wild-caught seafood we sell comes from sustainable fisheries. Given the large number of wild-caught species that we offer (and the wide range of fisheries from which the species are sourced), rather than creating our own standards we believe partnering with organizations (Marine Stewardship Council, Blue Ocean Institute, and Monterey Bay Aquarium) who already have well-established, great systems for evaluating wild capture fisheries, is the most efficient and robust approach.

Why doesn’t Whole Foods Market also use Blue Ocean Institute (BOI) or Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) color rankings for farmed seafood in the seafood departments?

We have already developed industry-leading standards for aquaculture (fish farming) with strict requirements for each farm that supplies Whole Foods Market. Our partners, BOI and MBA, have evaluated general practices in fish farming, but do not evaluate individual farms and thus cannot fulfill our unique needs for ranking farmed seafood.

Why are green-rated fisheries so important?

Not only do they help ensure a good supply of seafood going forward, but green-rated fisheries are important because they demonstrate that fish populations can be healthy and that fisheries can be sustainably managed. By sourcing from green-rated fisheries, we support the people and procurement systems involved in sustainable seafood.