Whole Foods Debuts Color-coded Seafood Ratings

Whole Foods Market has launched the first in-store color-coded sustainability-rating program for wild-caught seafood and committed to phasing out all red-rated species by Earth Day 2013.

Through partnerships with Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, Whole Foods is the first national grocer to provide a comprehensive sustainability rating system for wild-caught seafood.

“Our customers, buyers, fishermen and fishery managers can all make smart decisions that move us in the direction of greater sustainability,” said Carrie Brownstein, Whole Foods seafood quality standards coordinator. “The new color-coded rating system is a transparent way to provide sustainability status information. This new program, along with our promise to phase out red-rated species, deepens our commitment to having fully sustainable seafood departments.”

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 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 carries the “Responsibly Farmed” logo to indicate that it meets these high standards.

Whole Foods previously stopped selling especially vulnerable red-rated species such as non-certified Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, bluefin tuna, shark and marlin (with the exception of Hawaii-caught blue marlin, sold in Hawaii stores). All swordfish and tuna from red-rated fisheries will be eliminated from seafood counters by Earth Day 2011. By Earth Day 2012, all other seafood from red-rated fisheries will be discontinued with the exception of Atlantic cod and sole, which will be sold through Earth Day 2013.