In a major victory for embattled sea creatures around the globe, Whole Foods announced today that it will stop selling fish caught from depleted waters or through ecologically unsustainable methods. The grocery chain’s new policy will go into effect on April 22, otherwise known as Earth Day.

That means that you have less than a month to buy such red-coded seafood as gray sole, skate, Atlantic halibut, octopus, and Atlantic cod caught by trawls. Once the ban goes into effect, Whole Foods will carry less environmentally problematic catches, such as Pacific halibut and line-caught cod. A spokeswoman for the chain told the AP that it’s making the change a year ahead of its self-imposed deadline.

Whole Foods has long labeled its seafood with green, yellow, and red sustainability ratings determined by the Blue Ocean Institute and California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium. While many have applauded the attempt at transparency, others have criticized Whole Foods for continuing to use red-rated catches, arguing that unsustainable seafood is still unsustainable seafood, no matter how clear the labeling.

It’s been a busy month for seafood sustainability pledges. Both BJ’s Wholesale Club and Supervalu recently made similar announcements.

So, yay. Critics are no doubt wondering why it took Whole Foods so long to do it, but it’s still an important step in the right direction. And now that they’ve cleared that hurdle, maybe they can do something about GMO labeling. Baby steps…

Image source: Flickr member mattymatt under Creative Commons

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