Whole Foods says it will no longer carry red-rated, wild-caught fish in its seafood department, one year ahead of its self-imposed Earth Day 2013 deadline

, March 30, 2012 (press release) – Beginning this Earth Day (April 22), Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM - News) will no longer carry red-rated, wild-caught fish in its seafood departments. The move, which comes one year ahead of the company's self-imposed deadline of Earth Day 2013, makes Whole Foods Market the first national grocer to stop selling red-rated seafood.

A red rating indicates that a species is suffering from overfishing or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats; the ratings are determined by nonprofit research organizations Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium's green or "Best Choice" ratings mean species are abundant and are caught in environmentally friendly ways; yellow or "Good Alternative" ratings indicate some concerns with the species' status or catch methods.

Any wild-caught seafood at Whole Foods Market that does not carry the color-coded rankings of Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium comes from fisheries deemed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which remains the company's primary indicator for seafood sustainability.

As of April 22, Atlantic halibut, grey sole, skate, and others will no longer be offered. Whole Foods Market's fishmongers will help recommend alternatives, such as MSC-certified Pacific halibut and yellow-rated Dover sole and Atlantic flounder.

To highlight the company's knowledgeable and skilled fishmongers, Whole Foods Market will host its first-ever "Fishmonger Face-Off," in which North American team members will compete for the title of the company's best fishmonger. On June 16, 11 top fishmongers will travel to the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, where they will compete.

FACTS

In 2010, Whole Foods Market's regions partnered with either Blue Ocean Institute or Monterey Bay Aquarium (SeaChoice in Canada) to display color-coded sustainability ratings at its seafood counters so customers could make informed choices when selecting wild-caught seafood.
For years the company has not sold species with sustainability issues, such as orange roughy or bluefin tuna.
Whole Foods Market continues to offer a wide selection of MSC-certified fish, including Alaska salmon, Pacific halibut, Nova Scotia harpoon-caught swordfish, and Pacific cod.

QUOTES

"Through collaborations with the Marine Stewardship Council, Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, we offer our shoppers knowledge to make conscious seafood choices for themselves, their families and our oceans."

– David Pilat, Whole Foods Market's global seafood buyer

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is delighted to be a part of this important initiative with Whole Foods Market as they eliminate red rated species and offer responsibly sourced seafood. Their decision demonstrates their leadership in the field and will have a real impact on seafood suppliers and other retailers. As part of our work together, I've had the opportunity to visit many of their stores, and it's no surprise to me they were able to meet their goal a year early based on the passion and dedication I've seen from their team members.

-- Susan Marks, Senior Partnership Manager: Major Seafood Buyer Program for the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Blue Ocean Institute is very proud to partner with Whole Foods Market to supply seafood rankings so the consumer can make an informed and educated decision when purchasing seafood. This is an amazing accomplishment, as it will help protect fish numbers and habitats, while reducing the accidental catch of seabirds and sea turtles. This positive step from Whole Foods Market will directly result in healthier, more vibrant oceans.

-- Alan Duckworth, Research Scientist, Blue Ocean Institute

"Our passionate fishmongers are excellent at helping navigate our shoppers toward the best environmental choices. They stand ready to assist with cooking tips and recipe ideas and can cut your fish to order. Not only will shoppers take home a delicious piece of fish but also the peace of mind that they are doing their part to ensure fish for future generations. Together with our shoppers and vendor partners, we hope to spark a sea change to reverse overfishing and reduce bycatch."

– David Pilat, Whole Foods Market's global seafood buyer

STATS

53% of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, and 32% are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2010)

Around 27 million fish are discarded each year in commercial fisheries. – FAO (1996)

Fish provides nearly 3 billion people worldwide with almost 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein. – FAO (2009)

Nearly half of the most seriously undernourished countries are among the most dependent on fish as a source of animal protein. – FAO (2011)

About Whole Foods Market®

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America's first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named "America's Healthiest Grocery Store" by Health magazine. The company's motto, "Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet"™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Thanks to the company's more than 64,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America by FORTUNE magazine for 15 consecutive years. In fiscal year 2011, the company had sales of more than $10 billion and currently has more than 315 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

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