AUSTIN, Texas (May 27, 1999) Whole Foods Market has signed on as one of the first American companies to support and participate in the Marine Stewardship Council.

A global independent, not-for-profit organization based in London, the Marine Stewardship Council promotes sustainable fisheries and responsible fishing practices world-wide to help preserve fish stocks for future generations. With Whole Foods Market's announcement of support, the company joined other members of the Marine Stewardship Council, including representatives from fishing operations, fish processors, fish buyers and retailers, government officials, environmentalists, and scientists. All members are committed to working together towards the common goal of rebuilding declining seafood populations.

“Our partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council underscores our commitment to support international efforts to encourage the sustainability of fish stocks and the marine environment,” said Margaret Wittenberg, Vice President of Governmental and Public Affairs for Whole Foods Market. “Instead of supporting comprehensive boycotts as an answer to over-fishing, we believe the Marine Stewardship Council's unique marketing incentive program encourages, rather than alienates, fishermen to consider and ultimately commit to sustainable fishing methods. It is a very positive, progressive program that awards fishermen who try to maximize the ecological health and abundance of marine life, while at the same time providing us with long-term sources of seafood for our customers.”

Ironically, while the health benefits of eating seafood have encouraged more consumers to include it in their diet, this has caused serious supply issues. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently reported that 60% of the world's commercially important marine stocks are either fully fished, over-exploited, depleted, or recovering at a slow rate. Twenty-five percent of seafood caught world-wide is discarded back into the ocean either dead or dying. Innovative approaches to sustainable fishing are needed if the marine industry is to continue to operate as an important source of employment and wealth.

At the core of the Marine Stewardship Council is a set of Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing. These include recognition that a sustainable fishery should be based upon:  

  • The maintenance and re-establishment of healthy populations of targeted species.
  • The maintenance of the integrity of ecosystems.
  • The development and maintenance of effective fisheries management systems, taking into account all relevant biological, technological, economic, social, environmental and commercial aspects.
  • Compliance with relevant local and national local laws and standards and international understandings and agreements.

The Principles and Criteria are used as the standard in a third-party, independent, voluntary certification program that awards qualifying fishing operations the right to display the Marine Stewardship Council logo on packaging. The certification logo is a turquoise and white line drawing of a fish whose back and tail fin are shaped like a check mark of approval. The first fisheries to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council are expected to be named next year.