AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market  here is on track to discontinue all red-rated tuna and swordfish at its seafood counters nationwide by Earthday, Friday April, 22, 2011, the company announced in a release.
Last September, the company set Earth Day 2011 as its deadline for sourcing swordfish and tuna more sustainably as part of its broader goal to have fully-sustainable seafood departments. In partnership with the Blue Ocean Initiative and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Whole Foods has also developed a color-coded, science-based sustainability ratings system for all wild-caught seafood sold in its stores, offering shoppers transparent information about the sustainability status of any seafood not certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Buyers are now sourcing tuna and swordfish from green- and yellow-rated fisheries, such as those that use handlines in lieu of nets or longlines, “which can capture not only the targeted catch, but also juvenile tuna and large amounts of bycatch, including threatened or endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks and seabirds,” the release explains. By contrast, handline fishing results in little or no bycatch.
"The sustainability status information has opened a terrific dialogue at the seafood counter. Shoppers are flexing their buying power to prompt change and help reverse trends of overfishing, exploitation and depletion in so many fisheries," David Pilat, Whole Foods Market global seafood coordinator, said in the release. "Whole Foods Market is proud of our partnerships with Blue Ocean Institute, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and with our shoppers, buyers, fishermen and fishery managers. We are thrilled to have found fisheries that can provide better environmental choices to support the ecological health of our oceans and the abundance of marine life for generations to come."
Conner Herrick, seafood team leader in Whole Foods Market's Austin, Texas flagship store, agreed.
"We've heard from many shoppers that these ratings have been a wake-up call," he said in the release. "Shoppers have said that the visibility of the ratings at the seafood counter have provided a level of transparency that has helped them quickly zero in on the most sustainable items to purchase."
Remaining red-rated wild-caught seafood will be phased out of Whole Foods Market stores by Earth Day 2012 with the exception of Atlantic cod and sole, which will have an extension until Earth Day 2013.