AUSTIN, Texas (May, 19 2003) In an effort to continue its ongoing pledge to improve serious over fishing issues, Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFMI), the world's largest organic and natural foods supermarket, announced it will fund the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) new initiative aimed at increasing the number of certified sustainable fisheries in the United States and throughout all of the Americas.
“At a time when scientists have just reported vast declines in large predatory fish over the past 50 years, we are thrilled to be able to support a scientific-based seafood certification program here in the Americas to encourage and recognize well-managed fisheries,” said Margaret Wittenberg, vice president of governmental and public affairs for Whole Foods Market and co-chair of the MSC's Stakeholder Council and member of the Board of Trustees. “As a retailer often responsible for setting trends within the sector, we believe this initiative is a natural step to further demonstrate our commitment to the sustainable seafood movement and to help certify more fisheries that offer seafoods commonly preferred here in the United States.”
Funded by a $225,000 grant over three years, the “Whole Foods Market Americas Fisheries Initiative” will help the MSC retain a dedicated Fisheries Outreach Officer to identify and certify more fisheries in the Americas. This new member of the MSC team will develop and cultivate strong relationships with fisheries, fishery leaders and those who have a stake in the fishing industry. All must have good management as well as products that bear importance in the marketplace.
“We are grateful for the support Whole Foods Market is showing in the MSC program through the awarding of this grant,” said Jim Humphreys, the director of the MSC's Americas region. “It shows their commitment and foresight to being a positive force for sustainable fisheries in the business community. We expect this position to allow us to expand our outreach to fisheries in North and South America, ultimately resulting in more certified seafood products being made available to the consumer.”
Currently, seven fisheries have been certified under the MSC's international program for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Wild Alaska Salmon was the first North American seafood species to earn the seal of approval from the MSC. The MSC's certification program allows consumers to readily identify seafood that has not been over fished or caught with methods that harm the ocean environment. Catch levels of MSC-certified seafood are monitored by a third party certifier, as are the age and gender of the fish being caught, which helps to maintain population levels and appropriate reproductive capacity.
For the “Whole Foods Market Americas Fisheries Initiative,” the MSC has identified nine of the most important seafood products in the U.S. market to target over the next three years. These include: cold water prawns (shrimp), warm water prawns, cod, pollock, crab, mackerel, herring, hake and tuna. The MSC has already begun to identify fisheries in the Americas that have a significant market presence or can provide examples of good fisheries management, some of which may be listed by Monterey Bay Aquarium, EcoFish or National Audubon Society's fish lists. Species from some of these fisheries include Alaska halibut, Alaska sablefish (black cod), West Coast Dungeness crab, West Coast spot prawns, Pacific pink shrimp, Pacific and Alaska flatfish, California squid, Blue crab, Alaska cod, Pacific and Atlantic herring, Pacific and Atlantic Mahi-Mahi (dolphin fish), Albacore tuna, Bering Sea pollock, East Coast Striped bass, South American hake and Gulf mackerel.
“These species are of interest to an environmentally concerned retailer like Whole Foods Market because of their importance as widely consumed seafood,” added Wittenberg. “We expect this project to both identify fisheries that may ultimately be certified and to engage other fisheries in the movement toward becoming more sustainable so that we may truly have fish for future generations to enjoy.”
The Fisheries Outreach Officer position has been widely advertised with applications being accepted through May 23rd. Interviews will be held during the month of June with a target of having the officer beginning work in July. A job description is available on the MSC website: www.msc.org.
Whole Foods Market has been instrumental in promoting the MSC program for sustainable fisheries in North America. The retailer with over 140 stores became the first American retailer to carry MSC-labeled Alaska salmon – the first American seafood product and only salmon in the world to earn certification under the MSC program. Whole Foods Market holds an annual wild Alaska salmon promotion to educate consumers about the issue of over fishing and how the MSC program's eco-label gives shoppers a quick and easy way to make the “best environmental choice in seafood.” The 2003 Fish for our Future promotion begins in Whole Foods Market stores nationwide next month. The new initiative will build on Whole Foods Market's existing commitment to sustainable seafood.
Marine Stewardship Council
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to creating sustainable fisheries around the world by using market-based incentives. The organization is committed to the long-term viability of the global fish supply and health of marine ecosystems. The MSC is a business-green partnership and was founded in 1997 by Unilever and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The MSC has been autonomous since 1999 and has offices in London, Seattle and Sydney, Australia. The Alaska Salmon Fishery is the first U.S. fishery to earn MSC certification and is the largest fishery certified to date. Other certified species include Western Australian Rock Lobster, Thames Herring, South West Handline mackerel, Burry Inlet cockles, New Zealand Hoki and Loch Torridon nephrops. More than two dozen fisheries are currently involved in the MSC certification process including Alaska pollock and the Pacific halibut and sablefish fisheries. More information is available at: www.msc.org or by calling (206) 691-0188 in Seattle. * Study appearing in science journal Nature in May from Dalhousie University in Canada – Ransom Meyers, lead author