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The Sustainable Seafood Myth

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety page, Environment and Climate Resource page, Organic Transitions page, and our Fish & Sustainability page.


Stroll by any Whole Foods seafood counter and you will see color-coded fish: Green for fully sustainable, yellow for partially sustainable, and red for fish threatened by overfishing or grown on polluting fish farms. Buy a "green" fish and you eat guilt free, confident that you are doing your part to save the ocean and its inhabitants.

Put down your fork -- Whole Foods is not telling you the whole story. The dirty little secret of their seafood rating system is that it ignores the largest and most imminent threat to our oceans: greenhouse-gas emissions. Even if every human on the planet miraculously decided to buy only seafood stamped with the Whole Foods seal of "sustainablity," marine species will still be doomed.

This is not a secret threat: Just last month, the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) -- a consortium of 27 of the top ocean experts in the world -- declared that effects of climate change, ocean acidification, and oxygen depletion have already triggered a "phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history." According to Dr. Alex Rogers, director of the IPSO [PDF]:

 The findings are shocking. As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean the implications became far worse than we had individually realized ... We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime.


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