Fishing sustainability has been a hot topic lately, so hot that natural food store chain Whole Foods has decided to no longer purchase or distribute fish and seafood considered unsustainable. As of Earth Day 2012, all “red-rated” seafood, or seafood that suffers from overfishing or capture methods that cause environmental damage will be banned from Whole Foods stores.
Several other large chain stores have enacted similar unsustainable seafood bans. Target has removed farmed salmon from its shelves, and promises to eliminate foods that are unsustainable from its stores by 2015. Wegman’s has discontinued selling items from the Ross Sea in the Antarctic, which many experts say should no longer be fished. Wal-Mart will also require its fresh and frozen seafood to be labeled as sustainable, and develop a proper labeling system to identify seafood.
However there is still a large grey area around what seafood is actually sustainable and what is not. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has the most widely used certification system, and has certified 148 wild-caught fisheries, representing about seven percent of the global supply. However out of these fisheries, studies have shown that 31 percent were still overfished. There is still a long way to go for certifiers to sharpen their criteria and establish a superior system to rate the sustainability of various fishing methods. Though experts still recommend purchasing certified seafood, the current system is far from perfect.
The implications of Whole Foods and other stores banning many sources of seafood will have a huge effect on the fishermen who have provided these chains with fresh seafood for years. Much of this seafood comes from the overfished stocks of New England, where fishermen have been selling their catches to the same large retailers for years. Many fishermen will have to find new buyers for their catches, or simply wait until a more definitive rating system come to be.
DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com