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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INTERPOL, the global police network, has issued an alert seeking information on a rogue fishing vessel believed to have been taking fish illegally for over a decade. According to the alert, the vessel – a 70-meter (230 feet) long trawler known as “Snake” - has operated under 12 different names in the past 10 years, and been registered under the flag of at least eight different countries. It is suspected of continuing to fish in the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Southern and Central Africa.
The “Snake” has been blacklisted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) since 2004, and by the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) since 2007. Because of concerns that the ship’s activities are continuing, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries requested the issuance of a notice – the first to be issued for a fishing vessel, and the first under Project SCALE, which INTERPOL launched earlier this year in cooperation with Norway and the Pew Charitable Trusts to specifically hunt down illegal fishing operations.
“This is the first time INTERPOL’s network has been used to combat illegal fishing. Cooperation through INTERPOL is a new tool in the fight against fisheries crime, and I am glad that Norway has been able to take on a leading role in this cooperation,” said Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs.
INTERPOL issues seven types of color-coded notices across its law enforcement activity areas; a ‘Purple Notice’, such as the one issued for “Snake,” are used to “seek or provide information on modi operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.” According to INTERPOL, the notice “aims to gather information on the location and activities of the “Snake”, as well as on the individuals and networks which own, operate and profit from its illegal actions.”
Photograph of the “Snake”, via INTERPOL