TRANSCRIPT - Margaret Wittenberg
Wittenberg is Vice President of governmental & public
affairs at Wholefoods Market, USA.
Could you talk a little about why you decided to sign on with the
Marine Stewardship Council?
really excited about the Marine Stewardship Council because this
is a way we can ensure that in the long run, were going to
have fish to sell. And at the same time, maintain ecological interests.
And we think its a perfect marriage having that combination.
The other thing is the stakeholder process where everyone is working
together rather than against each other.
Do you think that consumer demand can help to change the ways seafood
is produced in the same it sparked the immense growth of organic
really think that the connection, the similarities between Marine
Stewardship Council and organic are very, very close. If you think
about the organic industry 20 years ago, it was a few farmers who
wanted to show a different way to do it. They wanted to have sustainability
of the soil but they wanted to have people know what they were doing.
The stores where they sold their product were willing to give them
a price premium in order to differentiate who they were, as well
as give them fair value for what they were offering. because their
expenses were definitely more than a conventional farmer. MSC, the
Marine Stewardship Council is very similar. Its a market-driven
program. With Marine Stewardship Council were telling the
fishermen that if they use sustainable seafood, if they manage sustainability,
we will market it as something special and give them full value
Do you see a similarity between an increasing demand for organic
produce and sustainably caught seafood helping to change the way
are finally understanding that we dont have limitless resources.
There is a point. There is definitely a drive from customers wanting
to help maintain the ecosystem of the world and I definitely see
the connection between organic and seafood there.
organic, its the concern of having the soil able to continue
to produce good quality healthful food. With seafood, consumers
are concerned there wont be any fish left. And with the Marine
Stewardship Councils way of looking at this, similar to organic,
were going to reward the fishermen who do fish in a sustainable
way, just like the organic farmers do, and we give them credit for
Do your customers ask about the origins of where and how fish they
are purchasing have been caught?
yes, were inundated with consumer concern about seafood sustainability.
We have some people that want us to support certain boycotts and
we have people that are just worried about what they can expect
in the future. Here at Whole Foods, we have always tried to work
with the fishermen. We feel that they are stakeholders with us in
the process and so rather than doing any boycotts, weve tried
to work with fishermen who have done a good job and focus on them.
And Marine Stewardship Council is doing the very same thing on a
Are you hearing that more and more people are asking about where
the fish are caught and how?
our consumers are asking the questions. Theyre asking where
the fish is caught and how it is caught. Its very important
to them. Theyre hearing information. Theres more information
in the media now about whats going on with our seafood population.
So they are asking and theyre very concerned. The Marine Stewardship
Council will give us more information that we can pass onto our
customers with a positive message that this is a sustainably managed
fishery that were dealing with.
Basically, it looks like you are going to carry both MSC product
and seafood that is not certified?
We will be selling both Marine Stewardship Council certified seafood,
as well as seafood that is not certified. Part of that is just a
realistic vision where the Marine Stewardship Council is. They are
slowly adding more fisheries to their certification process and
we need to sell fish in the interim, but the wonderful thing is
the questions well be getting from people asking when they
see the Marine Stewardship, Council "Fish Forever" label. That will
give the consumers more impetus to buy that product and learn more
about it, so weve done this with organic. Weve sold
conventional produce, as well as organic and over the years theres
been more and more organic available and more and more people buying
organics, so we see the same type of thing happening with the Marine
Stewardship Council certified seafood.
Over time the demand in the market for organic produce has increased.
Do you expect the same thing to happen for sustainably caught fish?
interesting parallels between organic and what can happen with sustainably
managed seafood. Years and years ago organic was quite new and as
the availability grew, more consumers knew about it, heard about
it and wanted to buy it. And we see this very same thing happening
with seafood. When more sustainably caught seafood is available,
customers will buy it.
What information will you be able to give customers when they ask
about the criteria of the MSC?
customers ask us about Marine Stewardship Council seafood, were
going to be able to tell them there are three main principles that
theyre being judged by and that is the sustainability of the
population of the seafood, the sustainability of the ecosystem and
how well it is managed as a whole.
Earlier you were telling me about your decision not to carry Chilean
sea bass. Could you talk a little about that?
made a decision early in 1999 not to carry Chilean sea bass and
that was a decision that was made with the seafood coordinators,
or buyers, as well as our corporate office. The criteria for us
was "Is this a managed species? Are there actual quotas for this?"
We found that there werent so we could not support selling
fish that was not managed and could be over fished quite soon.