Woolworths is passionate about the environment and has for a number of years been concerned about the impact of overfishing in our own waters as well as globally. Since introducing our sustainable seafood policy in 2008, we have achieved a number of significant milestones in terms of our products, and are continually working to raise awareness of these issues and help our customers make informed choices.

We remain deeply committed to procuring all our seafood from sustainable fisheries and responsible farming operations, and are working with local and international seafood sustainability awareness and certification bodies, including the WWF Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF -SASSI), the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), to ensure that all our seafood is responsibly sourced and traceable.

“We’re very proud of what we have achieved over the last five years,” says Woolworths MD of Foods, Zyda Rylands, “not only as far as ensuring that the seafood we sell is responsibly sourced, but in raising our customers’ awareness of the real danger posed by declining fish populations and the need to only buy responsibly sourced seafood from responsible retailers.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

These milestones include:

  • Introduced our Sustainable Seafood Policy (2008)
  • Became the first retailer to sign the WWF-SASSI Retail Charter (2008)
  • Began our Sustainable Seafood journey by compiling Wild Caught and Aquaculture questionnaires (2008)
  • Introduced random DNA testing to ensure that species are correctly identified (2010)
  • Stopped selling Cape Salmon (Geelbek) as a result of stock status (2010)
  • Facilitated the process of getting South African farmed Rainbow trout on the WWF-SASSI Green list (2011)
  • Stopped selling longline Yellowfin Tuna due to sustainability concerns(2012)
  • Partnered with MSC on customer awareness campaigns (2012)
  • Established a business –wide Fishing for the Future working group (2012)
  • Offered widest range of MSC-certified species in South African retail (2012)
  • All our seafood counters were MSC chain of custody certified (2012)
  • Announced new retail commitments (2013)

Educational initiatives during the same period included introducing colour-coded labelling for our seafood (2009), developing our first ‘Fishing for the Future’ reusable shopping bag to raise awareness among customers (2009), developed another ‘Fishing for the Future’ bag (2012), and running a successful MSC-focused consumer awareness campaign (2012).

“Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of their seafood purchases and want to make the right choices,” said Martin Purves, MSC Southern Africa Programme Manager. “The growth of MSC labelled products in South Africa is very encouraging and we are delighted to work with Woolworths and support them in their quest to offer their customers the widest range of sustainable seafood choices. We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership”


Having accomplished all of this, we have now set ourselves some equally challenging but achievable goals for the next few years.

By end 2015, all our wild-caught seafood will be

  • Sourced from fisheries that are undertaking a credible, time-bound improvement project1
  • WWF-SASSI Green-listed or
  • caught from MSC (or equivalent) certified fisheries

All species produced by aquaculture will be

  • From aquaculture operations that are engaged in a credible, time-bound improvement project1, or, where applicable,
  • WWF-SASSI Green-listed or
  • Formally committed to achieving the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification or have other credible standards in place such as Certified as Global GAP, Best Aquaculture Practise (BAP), Quality Trout UK (QTUK)

And then by end 2020, all aquaculture species sold will be:

  • From aquaculture operations that are engaged in a credible, time-bound Improvement Project1  or
  • Will be WWF-SASSI Green-listed, or
  • Where applicable, are ASC2 (or equivalent) certified,

 “It has been encouraging to see the careful consideration and detailed supply chain analysis that Woolworths has brought to the commitment-setting process for wild-caught and farmed seafood. It shows how seriously they take this commitment to sustainable procurement, which is just one dimension of an ambitious three-year partnership with WWF-SA aimed at addressing important environmental impacts in agriculture, freshwater and marine ecosystems,” concludes Tatjana von Bormann, Market Transformation manager at WWF-SA.