Seafood Sustainability Basics

The Whole Foods Market Approach


1. SOURCE AS MUCH MARINE STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD AS POSSIBLE.

Back in 1999 Whole Foods Market was the first US retailer to collaborate with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and each year we continue to offer our customers more and more MSC-certified seafood options. Over a decade later we still view the MSC as the world’s leading certification program for sustainable wild-caught seafood and our collaboration with them remains strong. We support the MSC because they use a multi-stakeholder, international, market-based approach to provide incentives for fisheries to address key issues such as overfishing and bycatch. Their standards are strong and the program is based upon third-party certification, including chain of custody. This means that the fish you see in our stores with an MSC-certified label on it actually came from the MSC-certified fishery

Look for the blue MSC eco-label identifying wild-caught seafood products that are MSC-certified.

Marine Stewardship Council

Learn more about our collaboration with the Marine Stewardship Council.

2. WHEN MSC-CERTIFIED SEAFOOD IS NOT AVAILABLE, GIVE CUSTOMERS TRANSPARENT INFORMATION, LET THEM VOTE WITH THEIR DOLLARS AND COMMIT TO FURTHER CHANGE.

In addition to offering MSC-certified sustainable seafood, we are doing even more. Over the last decade, we stopped selling especially vulnerable species such as non-MSC-certified Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, bluefin tuna, sharks and marlins (with the exception of Hawaii-caught blue marlin, sold only in Hawaii stores).

But we go beyond that. Since 2010 we have presented color-coded sustainability ratings for all non-MSC certified wild-caught seafood in all our seafood cases through our partnership with non-profit organizations, Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium. We’re proud to be the first national retailer to have such an extensive sustainability-rating program. Armed with information, our shoppers can make fully informed choices about their seafood.

Furthermore, on Earth Day 2012, we eliminated all wild-caught seafood from red-rated fisheries from our seafood departments. A red rating means that the fish population is at low levels of abundance and is caught in ways that cause serious harm to habitat or other marine life. Now, when customers visit the seafood department at our stores, any choice is a responsible one—whether it’s MSC-certified, green or yellow-rated wild-caught seafood, or farm-raised. With these efforts, we are closer to our goal of moving our stores—and the seafood industry as a whole—toward healthier oceans.

Learn more about the wild-caught seafood ratings program

3. SET THE BAR HIGH WITH RESPONSIBLY FARMED SEAFOOD.

There’s no doubt about it. Our farmed seafood (aquaculture) standards are the highest in the industry. The standards prohibit use of antibiotics, added growth hormones, added preservatives like sulfites and phosphates, genetically-modified seafood and land animal by-products in feed. Our standards require that producers protect water quality, wildlife and ecosystems. And we require third-party audits and traceability from farm to market. Look for the “Responsibly Farmed” logo, indicating that the farmed seafood meets these high standards.

Learn more about our Quality Standards for Farmed Seafood.