Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM) has announced a bold step toward furthering its goal of improving the sustainability of the worldwide fishing ecosystem. One year ahead of its previously announced goal of Earth Day 2013, Whole Foods will no longer carry seafood that has been labelled as “unsustainable” on this upcoming Earth Day, April 22. The move makes Whole Foods Market the first national grocery chain to take the step of removing seafood products from their shelves due to the sustainability rating.
Whole Foods has announced that fish that fall under the red-rated category will cease to be available in their stores on Earth Day. The rating, which is determined by non-profit research organizations Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, provides guidance on the sustainability of seafood products by looking at a number of factors associated with the population of specific species.
Affected by the change on April 22 are a number of red-rated fish that are on the list due to the fact that they are caught using the method of trawling. Trawling involves pulling a large fishing net through the water using a boat, which can cause a great deal of environmental damage including coral destruction and the removal of seaweed. Many world governments are currently debating the environmental concerns surrounding trawling, which may lead to increased regulation of the practice in the near future.
The following seafood has been slated to be removed from sale by Whole Food Markets on Earth Day:
- Atlantic halibut
- Grey sole
- Atlantic cod (trawl-caught)
- Octopus (trawl-caught)
- Swordfish (trawl-caught)
- Tuna (red-rated fisheries, trawl-caught)
- Sturgeon (trawl-caught)
- Turbot (trawl-caught)
- Imported wild shrimp (trawl-caught)
- Some varieties of rockfish
It is expected that other large grocery retailers will follow suit and add similar restrictions based on the ratings. The move will likely boost sales of relatively sustainable fish that fall under the yellow and green ratings provided by the ratings agencies.
Foodbeat’s Take: It is great to see a company like Whole Foods step up and do something that they feel is right, regardless of the potential economic impact it could have on their company. Whole Foods is a trend-setter and it will be interesting to see how this plays out as other retailers jump on board to support the ratings calculated by Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Either way, educating the end consumer more about what they are buying is never a bad thing and this should go a far way to make people think a bit more about their seafood choices.