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Fishermen Upset With Whole Foods for Refusing to Sell 'Unsustainable' Fish: Attempt to Placate 'the Green People


"It's totally maddening."

What has fishermen from New England saying things like "we've been murdered" and "it's totally maddening"? It's the fact that in an already heavily regulated industry, stores like Whole Foods are saying they will no longer take their "unsustainable" catch of the day.

The New York Times reports Whole Foods, a supermarket chain known for organic and natural products, has added to the list of fish it won't sell at all or those caught using certain methods. The Times reports Atlantic cod is among the many that won't be sold if it is caught using trawling nets, a popular technique in New England. Here's what some fishermen had to say about it:

“It’s totally maddening,” [Naz] Sanfilippo said. “They’re just doing it to make all the green people happy.”


“We’ve been murdered,” said Russell Sherman, who sold his entire catch to Whole Foods for the last six years and is seeking new buyers. “It’s not fair at all.”

Jim Ford, who said he sold 700,000 pounds of fish to Whole Foods over the past year, declared, “It’s a marketing ploy, that’s all.” Mr. Ford said he would now sell to the Legal Sea Foods restaurant chain instead.

The Times reports Whole Foods has had a fish processing plant in New England since 2006 and even had some boats working exclusively for the company in the area. In addition to Atlantic cod, Whole Foods stated it would stop selling all "red-rated" fish as of Sunday. Red-rated is a designation prescribed by Whole Foods based on a couple ratings. Whole Foods describes what this means:

From now on, all of the wild-caught seafood we carry will be from fisheries certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), or green (best choice) or yellow (good alternative) species rated by Blue Ocean Institute (BOI) andMonterey Bay Aquarium (MBA).

This adds to an existing list of seafood the store will not sell.

Watch the announcement here:

With many strict federal regulations already in place, the Times reports, some wonder why grocery stores are still limiting themselves on the types of fish they'll take. Whole Foods is not the only one. The Times notes New Hampshire fisherman and New England Fishery Management Council member David Goethel calling existing regulations "the strictest management regime in the world" and stating that the word "sustainable" means nothing.

Others praise Whole Foods for its decision. Ellen Pikitch, director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, told the Times that Whole Foods is making an example of "relatively well-managed fisheries" by continuing to sell their stock. She called it "unfortunate" many New England fisheries don't qualify but believes they will in time as the fish populations increase or catch methods are changed.

The Times reports policy director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition Vito Giacalone as saying "it's not good for the industry," but he states there will be demand in other areas of the market. Still, taking a glass half full approach, Giacalone said there are some other fish caught in New England that will still be sold in the store.

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