It is easy to be overwhelmed by the ever-growing number of choices at the grocery store. As consumers become more aware of how what they choose to eat influences their health, the environment, and their community, supermarket shelves are increasingly crowded with products claiming to be “sustainable” or “organic.” But when it comes to fish, these labels can be confusing and hard to interpret, since an official set of U.S. standards for quality seafood has not yet been developed. In an effort to address this problem, Whole Foods Market recently created its own standards to promote cleaner, greener and safer seafood.
Food & Water Watch strongly supports this decision to help protect the environment and assist consumers in making responsible choices, but we have some suggestions as to how the Market can improve the standards to make them successful and effective. First, net pen and flow through aquaculture should be eliminated, as these production techniques are wasteful and environmentally damaging. A second important revision is to establish a deadline by which producers must meet at least a 1:1 fish in, fish out ratio, which describes the amount of wild fish that a farm uses to make feed relative to the amount of fish it ultimately produces. Any farm that does not meet this ratio is depleting wild fish populations, which can cause irreversible harm to both the individual species used to make fish food and ecosystems that depend on them. Third, the standards should favor domestic and local suppliers as well as those farms that use re-circulating aquaculture, all of which benefit the environment and consumers. Lastly, Whole Foods must set and enforce a timeline by which the standards are to be met. If the Market allows companies to continue operating below the standards indefinitely, it will effectively be misleading consumers about the seafood Whole Foods carries and providing producers with little incentive to change.
To find out more about Food & Water Watch‚ recommendations and why these provisions are important, check out the letter we sent to Whole Foods Market‚ CEO and regional directors. Whole Foods is taking an important lead on improving the seafood it offers to consumers every day, and with our recommendations, you may soon be able to buy fish with confidence that you are getting a safe and environmentally responsible product.
– Darcy White