April 25, 2012 -
Whole Foods, the Texas-based natural foods supermarket, no longer carries fish considered to be unsustainable. The Whole Foods ban includes fish that is either overfished or caught in a harmful way, according to their website. The popular Atlantic Halibut made the list, though the company will still sell Atlantic cod that is caught by hook and line or gillnets. "Stewardship of the ocean is so important to our customers and to us," David Pilat, the global seafood buyer for Whole Foods told the New York Times. "We're not necessarily here to tell fishermen how to fish, but on a species like Atlantic cod, we are out there actively saying, 'For Whole Foods Market to buy your cod, the rating has to be favorable.'" Here's a look at the list of fish that the superstore no longer sells and why.
Octopus Whole Foods uses ratings set by the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The ratings are based on factors including how abundant a species is, how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat.
Imported Wild Shrimp "At Whole Foods Market, we've been saying that our mission is to sell only wild-caught fish that has been responsibly caught. For a few years now, we've used color-coded sustainability ratings, from green (best choice) to red (avoid), to help you make an informed choice. Now we're putting our mackerel where our mouth is: To support greater abundance in our oceans, we're no longer carrying red-rated wild-caught seafood!" the company wrote on its blog.
Tuna (from specific areas and catch methods rated "red") On their website, Whole Foods says that they stopped selling "species that were extremely depleted in the oceans, such as orange roughy, shark and bluefin tuna" years ago. The company uses the sustainability ratings of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Rockfish According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "In recent years, reduced fishing has allowed many rockfish populations to recover from low levels. Gear concerns remain, however -- trawl-caught rockfish should still be avoided."
Swordfish Some of the gear used to fish swordfish "accidentally catches sea turtles, seabirds and sharks," according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Skate Wing Skates are in the overfished category. Most are also caught with bottom trawls, which result in high levels of accidental catch.
Sturgeon According to Monterey Bay Aquarium, "Sturgeon farmed in the U.S. is a good alternative to most wild sturgeon, whose populations have seriously declined due to overfishing for sturgeon eggs (caviar)."
Tautog Also known as black fish, Tautog are considered a "vulnerable" species. They are found close to shore on hard-bottom habitats, occasionally entering brackish water.
Trawl-Caught Atlantic Cod Fishermen often catch cod with bottom trawl, large nets that skim across the seafloor. Trawling, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "damages marine habitats and produces bycatch."
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Turbot A cousin of Pacific halibut, turbot are a right-eyed flatfish -- as they develop, their left eye migrates across the top of the skull toward the other eye on the right side. Turbot are yellowish or grayish-brown on top and paler on their underside.
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Conservation group Oceana recently issued a report that named nine fisheries responsible for more than half of the U.S. bycatch. Bycatch is the wasted edible fish and drowned animals thrown back into the sea by fishing crews. Oceana claimed that 17-22 percent of the U.S.’s fishing fleets’ catch may be thrown away, totaling up to 2 billion tons per year.
“Anything can be bycatch,” said Dominique Cano-Stocco, campaign director at Oceana in a press release. “Whether it’s the thousands of sea turtles that are caught to bring you shrimp or the millions of pounds of cod and halibut that are thrown overboard after fishermen have reached their quota, bycatch is a waste of our ocean’s resources. Bycatch also represents a real economic loss when one fisherman trashes another fisherman’s catch.”
Oceana used National Marine Fisheries Service records to create their report and list of the nine fisheries, which provide only 7 percent of the total fish haul for the U.S. market, yet account for more than half of the total wasted bycatch. Fishing vessels in some of these regions actually throw away more than they take in.
These are the Nine fisheries:
Southeast Snapper-Grouper Longline Fishery: 66 Percent Discarded – In one year, more than 400,000 sharks were snagged on the baited hooks attached to the longlines, which can stretch 50 miles.
California Set Gillnet Fishery: 65 Percent Discarded – More than 30,000 sharks and rays along with mackerel and other edible fish were wasted over three years.
Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery: 64 Percent Discarded – Thousands of sea turtle drown in shrimp nets each year. Mechanisms known as “Turtle Excluder Devices” could have allowed many of these reptiles to escape. However, the use of these devices is not required. Also in this fishery, every pound of shrimp landed results in 1 pound of billfish discarded
California Drift Gillnet Fishery: 63 Percent Discarded – Over five years, almost 550 marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions, were entangled in nets or killed.
Gulf of Alaska Flatfish Trawl Fishery: 35 Percent Discarded – More than 34 million pounds of fish were thrown overboard in one year, mostly arrowtooth flounder, as well as 2 million pounds of halibut and 5 million pounds of cod.
Northeast Bottom Trawl: 35 Percent Discarded – More than 50 million pounds of fish, such as flounder and skates, are thrown overboard per year.
Mid-Atlantic Bottom Trawl Fishery: 33 Percent Discarded – In one year, almost 200 marine mammals and 350 sea turtles were trapped or killed
Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Longline Fishery: 23 Percent Discarded – More than 75 percent of the wasted fish are valuable tuna, swordfish and other billfish, but too small for commercial sale.
New England and Mid-Atlantic Gillnet Fishery: 16 Percent Discarded – More than 750 dolphins and porpoises died in gill nets each years in the 2000s.
Photo: Dolphin trapped in gillnet Credit: Oceana