Whole Foods Sustainable Seafood Labeling - Pro or Con?

One hears backlash against wallet cards and sustainability rankings lately. I'm tired of the naysayers! Here's why and some good news from Whole Foods.

How to Make the Best Seafood Choices

Whole Foods is adopting a labeling scheme for their seafood and has "pledged to eliminate all red-list seafood by Earth Day 2013."  This news is sure to make waves. I say "BRING IT ON!"

I'm a big fan of the Seafood Watch wallet cards, of FishPhone of labeling like this:



Click on the image for more info.

For or Against Wallet Cards?


Too often people want to make the argument that these tools are "too simplistic" or paint the issue with too broad a brush. I disagree.

It's just not that simple. We cannot pretend that everyone is in the same place with respect to knowledge of sustainable seafood issues. In fact, at one recent event where was a panelist, I took exception to the assertion that these "wallet cards are crap" I made the argument that I believe these rankings and tools are useful for the following reasons:


  1. They are science-based, and transparent. You can click on links at the Seafood Watch website, for example and get the reports that back up the ranking or explain them more fully.
  2. These tools, like wallet cards, are a simple way to help people make baby steps in the right direction.
  3. The wallet cards, especially, stimulate discussion. Between a fishmonger and a customer, between a writer and an advocate, between any two people, the card can provide a way to start the ball rolling.



The other panelist and I agreed to disagree.

During the audience Q&A two of the first hands up were from people who took out their wallet cards and said "I"m kind of new to this sustainable seafood thing..."

This is exactly my point. Is a wallet card "THE" answer? No, of course not. Are the people who designed them evil incarnate? Of course not.

Simplicity loves a villain. The reality is that we all need help, we all can use tools and resources and what we can learn from each other, in our quest to make better food choices.

Do I think Whole Foods labeling scheme will save our oceans? No, but it's certainly a step in the right direction and we need more of us taking those!

Join me and chefs like Rick Moonen, along with other chefs, food writers, home cooks and conservation buddies in the 4th Annual Teach a Man to Fish sustainable seafood blog event. Think of it as a virtual potluck where we all share stories and recipes about what we're learning and how we're enjoying sustainable seafood. I can't wait to see what I'll learn from you all this year!