Quantcast

Strict Standards Keep Whole Foods' Seafood Sustainable

Business

Photo credit: Whole Foods

Strict standards have meant few seafood suppliers for Whole Foods, but plenty of praise from champions of sustainability.

Whole Foods puts suppliers through a lengthy evaluation process before doing business with them. The lucky few receive a stringent, third-party audit each year.

The intense attention is warranted, as the production of farmed fish continues to outpace beef production. Pollution, habitat damage and disease are among the issues organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium have identified with aquaculture or fish farming.

Whole Foods' response to these issues earned it the No. 1 spot on Greenpeace's ranking of sustainable seafood retailers earlier this year. Seafood quality standards coordinator Carrie Brownstein told GreenBiz.com that the company began working on the standards in the '90s with the aid of collaborations that continue to shape practices at 362 stores in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom.

"In the beginning, it was really focused on wild caught species and our collaboration with the Marine Stewardship Council," she said. "We also stopped selling a number of species that were especially vulnerable, like Bluefin Tuna and shark."

Brownstein said Whole Foods personnel visit fish farms and consult with various environmental groups and governmental and collegiate scientists to make sure their standards are as sustainable as possible. In 2006, the company created standards for farmed salmon, followed by shrimp and other finfish the following year.

"We continue to work on aquaculture because our process is continuous and always evolving, so as we learn more about what’s happening in the industry, we continually improve and update our standards," she said.

Those standards include:

  • No antibiotics, added growth hormones and poultry and mammalian by-products in farm-fish feed.
  • Producers must minimize the environmental impacts of fish farming by protecting mangrove forests and wetlands, monitoring water quality to prevent pollution and sourcing feed ingredients responsibly.
  • Enforcing protocols to ensure that farmed seafood does not escape into the environment and that wildlife around the farm is protected.

Brownstein didn't provide any figures to display a change in behavior among Whole Foods suppliers, but said the company forbid the use fishing nets treated with copper-based antifoulants.

"These kinds of things are toxic to the marine environment and we didn’t want that to be getting into the water and affect other aspects of the ecosystem or other animals," she said. "So, we gave the producers time to allow for all of our suppliers to stop using that.

"What that did was, that reduces the overall amount of copper that’s entering into the water."

In its "Carting Away the Oceans 7" report, Greenpeace listed Whole Foods as one of five retailers that made a full commitment to not selling genetically modified seafood. The organization applauded Whole Foods' rise from fourth place in sustainability two years ago to first place in 2013.

"Your discontinuation of two more red list species—ocean quahog and South Atlantic albacore—provided the wind for your sails," Greenpeace wrote about Whole Foods' rise.

"You also continue to adhere to the most rigorous sustainable seafood policy in the industry."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read More Show Less
Foto-Rabe / Pixabay

When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.

Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A crate carrying one of the 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is lifted onto the back of a lorry before being transported to a private reserve on April 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Read More Show Less
A tornado Monday in Union City, Oklahoma. TicToc by Bloomberg / YouTube screenshot

Extreme weather spawned 18 tornadoes across five states Monday, USA Today reported. Tornadoes were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, but were not as dangerous as forecasters had initially feared, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
A woman walks in front of her water-logged home in Sriwulan village, Sayung sub-district of Demak regency, Central Java, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2018. Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency /Getty Images

A new study has more than doubled the worst-case-scenario projection for sea level rise by the end of the century, BBC News reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

Read More Show Less
Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less