The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the government agency that's responsible for managing fisheries in U.S. waters, is asking for public comments on proposed policies for addressing what's known in the industry as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing (a.k.a. pirate fishing) and bycatch (unintentional or incidental catch) of protected species like whales and sea turtles. Okay, there are a lot of acronyms in that first sentence (I even left some out) but the point is: as citizens we have an opportunity to express our opinion about how these public resources are managed.
Here's mine: Hats off to NMFS for addressing these critical issues! Together with my colleague, Margaret Wittenberg - Global Vice President of Quality Standards and Public Relations, we've submitted comments to NMFS letting them know that Whole Foods Market cares about sourcing seafood sustainably and minimizing the impacts of fishing on the marine ecosystem. To source seafood right, though, we need strong regulations that address illegal fishing because as a grocery store, we can't police the oceans.
We're urging our fishery managers to do everything possible to provide the tools necessary to help us avoid sourcing from fisheries that catch fish illegally or take protected species. For example, denying port privileges to nations fishing illegally and prohibiting the import of fish products in violation of these rules would be a huge step forward; it would put the onus of responsibility on nations to fish responsibly, rather than on a grocery store like Whole Foods Market to figure out who is fishing legally and who isn't. Finally, there may be fisheries that operate legally within a country that is found to be engaging in illegal fishing in other sectors. Consequently, we agree with NMFS' approach to have alternative certification procedures that allow products to be certified on a shipment-by-shipment or shipper-by-shipper basis.
If you'd like to submit comments yourself, the deadline is May 14, 2009 and details can be found on Federal Register Docket No. 070514119-81404-02
You can read the full letter
(pdf) that Whole Foods Market submitted to NMFS.
What do you think? Let us know and, more importantly, let the NMFS know!