(NaturalNews) Whole Foods Markets has announced that it will soon become the first national retailer to implement an in-store sustainability rating program for all wild-caught seafood. Each of Whole Foods' 298 stores will display green, yellow or red symbols to indicate the sustainability of each species, as determined by the Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium.
"At the end of the day, it's a team effort," said Whole Foods Market Seafood Quality Standards Coordinator Carrie Brownstein. "Our customers, buyers, fishermen, and fishery managers can all make smart decisions that move us in the direction of greater sustainability. With this new program, we are one step closer to our goal of moving our stores -- and the seafood industry as a whole -- toward healthier oceans."
A green symbol will indicate that a species is a "best choice" in seafood, a yellow symbol will indicate "good alternative," and a red symbol will indicate "avoid." The ratings are based on the degree to which a species is sustainably harvested or overfished.
According to The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge, "overfishing is a common problem and has endangered a number of species. The most notable recent cases have been swordfish, Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), and sturgeon (the source of caviar)."
Whole Foods has also committed to phasing out the sale of all red-rated species by March 2013. It will also introduce its own ratings program for farmed seafood.
Smaller retailers have already adopted similar policies, and observers hope that Whole Foods' action could be the beginning of a trend among larger stores.
"We're delighted to help Whole Foods Market expand its commitment to offering seafood from sustainable sources," said Michael Sutton of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "Whole Foods Market is a leader in the field, and its decision will have a real impact on seafood suppliers and other retailers."