Whole Foods launches seafood rating system

Whole Foods Market on Friday said it will no longer sell red-rated, wild-caught seafood species as of 22 April, one year ahead of the company’s self-imposed deadline of Earth Day 2013.

A year ago, the United States’ No. 1 natural foods retailers announced that it is on track to meet its commitment by Earth Day 2013, seven months after launching a color-coded system for rating sustainable seafood. Working with Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Austin, Texas-based retailer is using the organizations’ red, yellow and green system to categorize its wild seafood.

Whole Foods, which operates just over 300 stores nationwide, will now offer only wild seafood categorized as “best choice” (green) or “good alternative” (yellow). Wild seafood categorized as “avoid” will no longer be carried.

As of 22 April, Whole Foods is discontinuing sales of a number of species, including Atlantic halibut, grey sole, skate and trawl-caught Atlantic cod, and will instead recommend alternatives such as MSC-certified Pacific halibut and yellow-rated Dover sole and Atlantic flounder. A year ago, the retailer phased out sales of red-rated tuna and swordfish.

Additionally, Whole Foods is highlighting its “knowledgeable and skilled” fishmongers by host its first-ever “Fishmonger Face-Off,” in which fishmongers will compete for the title of the company’s best fishmonger. On 16 June, 11 top fishmongers will travel to the Aspen Food & Wine Classic in Colorado, where they will square off.

“Our passionate fishmongers are excellent at helping navigate our shoppers toward the best environmental choices. They stand ready to assist with cooking tips and recipe ideas and can cut your fish to order,” said David Pilat, Whole Foods Market’s global seafood buyer. “Not only will shoppers take home a delicious piece of fish but also the peace of mind that they are doing their part to ensure fish for future generations. Together with our shoppers and vendor partners, we hope to spark a sea change to reverse overfishing and reduce bycatch.”

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