Whole Food Teams Up With Monterey Bay Aquarium

Whole Foods' new labeling program will help consumers buy ethically-caught seafood.

By Matt Baume
|  Wednesday, Sep 15, 2010  |  Updated 7:05 AM PDT
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Fashionably Green

David Hall

Unlike the jellyfish display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the churned up specimens in the filters are not a pretty picture.

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At least, you can eat that mackerel without being wracked with guilt.

Whole Foods has launched a color-coding system for its seafood, indicating the environmental impact of fishing for each particular species. Pacific cod, which are abundant, get a green sticker. Red snapper, however, gets red because of its low population and fishing methods that may harm the larger ecosystem.

The food retailer has a surprising ally in its public information campaign: the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Aquarium has developed informational guides to help shoppers buy fish without harming the ocean, rivers, and lakes. Pick up a Pacific halibut, not a grouper; opt for domestic mahi mahi, not flounder. Eat farmed oysters with a clear conscience.

The new system augments Whole Foods' partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies fish caught in the wild. Only a few retailers participate in that program, but other stores are taking similar steps to protect the environment: Trader Joe's is committed to only selling sustainably sourced fish and Safeway has stopped carrying over-fished species.

This doesn't mean that marine wildlife is out of the woods yet. Sea Stewards is currently working on a Shark Sanctuary program to call attention to dangers posed to the San Francisco Bay's shark population. Among them is the inhumane and wasteful process of catching sharks, tearing off their fins, and then then throwing away the rest of the animal.

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