Whole Foods Market to Offer Sustainable MSC-certified, Harpoon-caught Swordfish

Posted by Josette Dunn on 9th July 2010

Whole Foods Market will be the only major retailer in the US to offer Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified, fresh, harpoon-caught swordfish from Nova Scotia this (Northern) summer. This seasonal grilling gem that also happens to be a smart environmental seafood choice will be available at Whole Foods Market during July and August, while supplies last.


Whole Foods Market employs port buyers who will hand select and grade swordfish as it arrives at the dock. Buyers will choose only swordfish of the highest grade – fish with white meat, a firm texture, and bright blood lines, which signify optimum temperature and proper handling.

“This is an incredibly special fishery. To get this many fishermen on board 100 percent with the MSC fishery sustainability program is no easy task, and it is a testament to their commitment to the future of the fishery and the fish,” said Dan Rand, Whole Foods Market port buyer. “Whole Foods Market cares so much about the sustainability of these fisheries, and we are proud to offer this swordfish.”

The Nova Scotia harpoon fleet uses a time-honored technique, passed down through generations, which allows fishermen to target individual mature fish one by one, virtually eliminating the chance of bycatch or harm to ocean habitats.

“Harpooning is legendary and is a very primal way of catching fish,” said Rand. “These harpooners are relying on knowledge and techniques handed down by ancestors, sometimes 10 generations removed.”

The fleet is smaller than most – approximately 100 boats – that are predominantly independent and family-owned. Because they keep their trips short – with many returning within 72 hours – swordfish arrives at stores quickly, with a goal of 48 hours from dock to store. The Canadian government, which regulates fishing seasons, worked directly with fishermen and Whole Foods Market to limit the season to three, five-day intervals, ensuring that shelf life is increased for swordfish at the Company’s seafood counters and that swordfish remain plentiful.

“Through customer communications like this campaign around certified swordfish, Whole Foods Market is helping to educate consumers about sustainable fishery issues. MSC applauds Whole Food Market’s longstanding commitment to environmental responsibility,” said Kerry Coughlin, MSC Americas Region director. “As their customers better understand the importance of certified sustainable seafood products and the rigor of the MSC’s independent, internationally recognized standard, the more consumers can play a role by their choices in realizing the vision of oceans teeming with life for this and future generations.”

For more than a decade, Whole Foods Market has recognized the MSC as the world’s leader in sustainable fishery certification. With its strict standards and rigorous third-party certification – including chain of custody, which verifies that product identification is in place to ensure that products from certified fisheries are not mixed with products from uncertified fisheries – the MSC supports well-managed, ocean-friendly fisheries, helps to combat overfishing, and ensures seafood is available for generations to come.