IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Whole Foods eliminates 'red' rated fish from its seafood department

Whole Foods Market announced it would stop selling wild-caught fish species threatened by overfishing.
Whole Foods Market announced it would stop selling wild-caught fish species threatened by overfishing.Rick Bowmer / AP

One fish, two fish — but there's no "red fish" anymore, at least not at Whole Foods. Organic and natural-foods chain Whole Foods Market announced it would stop selling wild-caught fish species labeled "red," or threatened by overfishing, by the Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

The company said in a statement Friday it will stop selling these fish on April 22, Earth Day, and that it will be the only national grocery retailer that doesn't sell "red" fish. Species it will no longer stock include Atlantic halibut, grey sole and skate, along with others, the company said.

The aquarium and the environmental group use color coding — green, yellow and red — to help consumers identify fish deemed to be in ecological danger or caught in an unsustainable manner. A red rating means "avoid" consuming these fish entirely.

Previously, Whole Foods labeled the fish it sold by color it sold so consumers with environmental concerns would know what to avoid. The retailer already didn't sell other species considered at risk like orange roughy and bluefin tuna. 

But at least one prominent seafood brand called the Monterey Bay Aquarium's ratings into question. According to trade publication Nation's Restaurant News, Legal Sea Foods broke with the conservation group last year, choosing instead to rely on sustainability data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries. 

Legal Sea Foods president and CEO Roger Berkowitz told Nation's Restaurant News that his company wanted to debunk "myths that these fish are not sustainable.” He was referring to species like hook-caught cod from the Gulf of Maine, which currently has a yellow rating on Monterey's Seafood Watch list, and imported black tiger shrimp, which is rated red by the group.