Whole Foods Market No Longer Carrying “Unsustainable” Seafood


Earth Day this year was a bigger day than most for Whole Foods Market, the supermarket chain known for selling “natural and organic” products. As of April 22, they officially stopped carrying several different types of seafood, including Atlantic halibut, octopus, tuna from certain areas and much more. The “restricted” seafood is red-rated, based on color-coded sustainability ratings that the grocer has been following for years. Colors range from green (best choice), yellow (good alternative) to red (not recommended).

Whole Foods uses ratings set by the conservation group Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium based in California. The color-coded ratings determine how sustainable a wild-caught species is. The ratings are based on how abundant a species is,  how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat.

For a few years, Whole Foods has displayed this rating system in the store for customers to make their own decisions about purchasing the fish, but now the grocer says it’s taking a more pro-active stance. The store will be offering tips and recipes to swap out popular recipes made with fish they no longer offer. This is part of a long-term initiative for which the company hopes to set an example.

“In the short term, we’ll be offering more sustainable options at our seafood counter and in our seafood departments, but in the long-term we hope to reverse trends of overfishing and move the industry towards greater sustainability,” said David Pilat, the global seafood buyer for Whole Foods.

A few years ago, the company stopped selling several fish with extremely depleted numbers in the wild, such as orange roughy and bluefin tuna. Now shoppers will find that there are no longer the following items in the seafood department:

  • Atlantic halibut,
  • octopus,
  • certain tuna,
  • imported wild shrimp,
  • rockfish,
  • swordfish,
  • skatewing,
  • sturgeon,
  • tautog,
  • trawl-caught Atlantic cod,
  • turbot,
  • and gray sole.

For this list along with photographs of each species, click here.

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