Schooling fish buyers

Greenlife Grocery has introduced an educational labeling and sourcing program called FishWise that helps consumers make informed choices about seafood. The FishWise buyers’ guide indicates how “sustainable” each seafood item is, and where and how it was caught. “Sustainable seafood” is defined as seafood that was caught or farmed using methods that will sustain its supply long term and do not damage the surrounding ecosystem. FishWise also provides a list of the species that are the lowest in mercury and PCBs.

Greenlife is the first retailer in the southeast to implement FishWise, which is touted as the most comprehensive sustainable-seafood program for grocery stores in the U.S. A nonprofit organization based in California, FishWise has been implemented in 34 stores so far. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are depleted, over-fished or at full capacity. Because FishWise promotes the purchase of “sustainable seafood” by retailers and consumers, the hope is that this will encourage fishermen to switch to sustainable-fishing methods.

Under the FishWise program, all items in the seafood case are labeled with the exact species name, the location where the fish was caught, the catch method and a color-coding system that provides customers with a quick reference to each fish’s sustainability status: Green represents a best choice; Yellow has some concerns and Red is unsustainable.

Some fish contain potentially harmful levels of mercury, PCBs and other contaminants. FishWise includes a Low Mercury list of seafood that meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety guidelines for weekly consumption. This list is created through as partnership with Environmental Defens,e which maintains a database on contaminants in fish and shellfish amassed from more than 75 government monitoring programs and scientific studies.

Greenlife will hold a “Sustainable Seafood Celebration” on Friday, Aug. 31, and Saturday, Sept. 1, to educate consumers about the plight of the oceans, the benefits of sustainable seafood, and how the FishWise program works. The event will be held at the store (70 Merrimon Ave.) from 1 to 5 p.m. each day. Representatives from the seafood department will be on hand to talk with customers and provide literature. Recipes and samples of sustainable seafood will be offered, along with reduced prices on select ocean-friendly seafood items.

And despite the accompanying photo, Nemo isn’t on the menu.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer


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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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