AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market today launches the first in-store color-coded sustainability-rating program for wild-caught seafood and commits to phasing out all red-rated species by Earth Day 2013. Through partnerships with Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, Whole Foods Market is the first national grocer to provide a comprehensive sustainability rating system for wild-caught seafood.
Blue Ocean and Monterey Bay Aquarium are highly respected for the strength of their science-based seafood programs. Both organizations evaluate species and the fishing fleets that catch them, based on life history, abundance, habitat impacts, fishery management practices and bycatch.
-Green or "best choice" ratings indicate that a species is relatively abundant and caught in environmentally-friendly ways;
-Yellow or "good alternative" means some concerns exist with the species' status or catch methods;
-Red or "avoid" means that for now, the species is suffering from overfishing, or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats.
The color-coded ratings offer shoppers transparent information about the sustainability status of wild-caught seafood. Anyone can go online and review complete species and fishery evaluations.
The new program expands upon the partnership that Whole Foods Market has had with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) since 1999, and the new ratings apply only to non-MSC-certified fish. The MSC is the world's leading certification body for sustainable wild-caught seafood, and its blue ecolabel identifies wild-caught seafood products that are MSC-certified.
The company's new wild-caught seafood rating program and partnerships will complement its existing farmed seafood standards, which remain the highest in the industry. Farmed seafood at Whole Foods Market carries the "Responsibly Farmed" logo to indicate that it meets these high standards.
Michael Sutton, Vice President of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who oversees its Seafood Watch program, added: "We're delighted to help Whole Foods Market expand its commitment to offering seafood from sustainable sources. Whole Foods Market is a leader in the field, and its decision will have a real impact on seafood suppliers and other retailers. Its in-store education and commitment to phase out red-rated seafood will help raise awareness and improve fishing practices around the world."
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