Whole Foods’ focus on sustainability creates disputes with some fishermen

I’m expecting that in about two weeks we’ll get the official word that Whole Foods is moving to the former Backus Cadillac property on Victory Drive. I’ve posted about the subject a few times and included links to the development plans in this post.

Since the MPC approval, the city of Savannah acted quickly to do what it needed to do to keep the plans on track.

The presence of Whole Foods will be a boon for Savannah in many ways. One of the less obvious ways will be the fact that Whole Foods finds itself routinely in the forefront of national discussions about sustainable farming and fishing practices. Increased public discussion of such issues is sure to be a good thing in the long run.

From A Ban on Some Seafood Has Fishermen Fuming:

Standing on the deck of his rusted steel trawler, Naz Sanfilippo fumed about the latest bad news for New England fishermen: a decision by Whole Foods to stop selling any seafood it does not consider sustainable.

Starting Sunday, gray sole and skate, common catches in the region, will no longer appear in the grocery chain’s artfully arranged fish cases. Atlantic cod, a New England staple, will be sold only if it is not caught by trawlers, which drag nets across the ocean floor, a much-used method here.

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

Whole Foods says that, in fact, it is doing its part to address the very real problem of overfishing and help badly depleted fish stocks recover. It is using ratings set by the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. They are based on factors including how abundant a species is, how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat.

It’s a really interesting piece — one that spends an awful lot of time letting affected fishermen complain before turning to the company’s reasons for the move. The full effects:

The company had originally planned to stop selling “red-rated” fish next year but moved up its deadline. The other fish it will no longer carry are Atlantic halibut, octopus, sturgeon, tautog, turbot, imported wild shrimp, some species of rockfish, and tuna and swordfish caught in certain areas or by certain methods. (Whole Foods has already stopped selling orange roughy, shark, bluefin tuna and most marlin.)

So that seems like good news for local fishermen who are harvesting wild Georgia shrimp. One such company — Savannah-based Ambos Seafood — is already featured on the Whole Foods website.