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Sustainable Or Not? Seafood Sparks Debate

Whole Foods announced it would no longer stock unsustainable seafood this week, including octopus and Atlantic halibut. But what is considered "sustainable?"


Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This Atlantic halibut will no longer be sold at Whole Foods.

Fish In The Red

In an effort to keep certain species of fish from disappearing, Whole Foods announced this week that unsustainable seafood will be disappearing from their stores.

The chain will no longer stock red-rated fish, including octopus, gray sole and Atlantic halibut.

Target has stopped selling farm-raised salmon, and Meijer announced its stores would follow sustainable guidelines for their fish. Wal-Mart and Wegmans have also made commitments to sell sustainable seafood.

What Is Considered “Sustainable?”

With several boards determining what is — or isn’t — sustainable, that question isn’t easy to answer.

The Blue Ocean Institute and Monterrey Bay Aquarium, both of which Whole Foods used for their decision, and the Environmental Defense Fund have different rating systems. The most common certification comes from the Marine Stewardship Council, but some are arguing their standards have been lowered over the years.

Only about 6 or 7 percent of the world’s fisheries are MSC-certified.

The inconsistency leads to confusion for some consumers. Some choose to do their own independent research when purchasing seafood, like pocket-sized guides.

Read More:

  • Buying Sustainable Fish Is Getting Easier, But It’s Still Hard (NPR)
  • Some question whether sustainable seafood delivers on its promise (Washington Post)
  • Does sustainable seafood deliver on its promise? (Delaware Online)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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