Quantcast

What to Consider When Buying a Can of Tuna

Food

Canned tuna is one of the world's most popular packaged fish, but it has also long been controversial. Between issues of overfishing resulting in fishery depletion and bycatch that threatens other species including the much-publicized incidental capture of dolphins by tuna fishermen, it has gotten a bad name. With the increased awareness of the harm tuna fishing can cause, companies have stepped up to try to reassure consumers that they are paying attention to the health of our oceans.

Seafood companies are responding to the public's increased interest in whether fishing practices deplete tuna populations. Photo credit: David Hano/International Sustainable Seafood Foundation

San Diego-based Chicken of the Sea, one of the largest U.S. distributors of packaged seafood, recently issued its corporate sustainability report. The company boasted numerous ways it has increased its commitment to corporate sustainability—decreasing waste through recycling, cutting water use, becoming more energy efficient at its facilities, reducing its carbon footprint through better transportation logistics and continuing to evaluate its packaging for its environmental impact. It announced a series of goals it plans to meet by 2020.

"While we’ve made good progress, looking ahead, we face very real challenges in several of our key areas," said David Roszmann, the company's COO and leader of its sustainability efforts. "On the environmental front, we must be aggressive about identifying and implementing new technologies and behaviors to improve our energy efficiency. We must also continue to pay close attention to our supply chain and its impacts."

Those include the impact of fishing on the ocean's ecosystem. Its commitment to sustainable fishing practices receives less emphasis in its report than its energy-efficiency and waste-cutting measures. It promises to more aggressively audit its suppliers for their procurement practices, setting a goal of auditing 90 percent by 2020 and working toward increasing the amount of fish it sources from sustainable fisheries.

"As a founding member of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), Chicken of the Sea strongly supports all of the foundation's initiatives," the company says.

The ISSF was formed in 2009 by scientists, environmental activists and players in the seafood industry such as Chicken of the Sea. It works directly with fisheries to upgrade their practices to protect the health of marine ecosystems, reduce bycatch, eliminate illegal fishing practices and maximize catch while conserving marine species. It offers information on fishing methods and updates on fishing stocks and conservation efforts. It's one of the groups working to push for commitment to sustainable fishing practices from all players along the marine food business chain.

Another is UK-based, international nonprofit organization Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which sets standards for fisheries and offers a label for products to display to let customers know that the product has been traced to sources that use sustainable fishing practices. It works with fisheries around the world as well as retailers to encourage the availability of more such products and advocates for restoring and maintaining the health of the oceans in the face of climate change. It points out that "Healthy, renewable food from fisheries will become more important as agriculture suffers from drought and other impacts of climate change." It even hosts a website called Fish and Kids to educate the next generation about the importance of sustainable fishing through games, recipes and other projects.

The website Sustainable Canned Tuna provides information for consumers in simple and easy-to-grasp fashion. It even offers suggestions for brands of tuna to look for or purchase online that guarantee the fish was caught sustainably. Among the top choices are Raincoast Trading and Wild Planet Foods, two smaller packaged seafood companies that trace all their tuna from the fishing ship to the can and offer only sustainably caught seafood throughout their product lines, doing now what Chicken of the Sea promises to do sometime in the future.

Wild Planet Foods was launched just over a decade ago by two industry veterans who wanted to provide wild seafood that was caught in a way that protected marina habitats. "The natural ocean ecosystem is an abundant food production resource that must remain that way; the name Wild Planet arose from this concept," the company says. The company sells wild-caught seafood products like tuna, salmon and sardines, using fishing methods that assure no other forms of marine life are trapped or injured in the process. It's also active in supporting initiatives for protected marine preserves.

Is your tuna melt sustainable? If it's made with Wild Planet tuna it is. Photo credit: Wild Planet

The Vancouver-based Raincoast Trading, which distributes its products in both Canada and the U.S., was founded 20 years ago by the scion of a fourth-generation fishing family who had become concerned about the future of fishing habitats. It uses sustainable practices not only in catching but also in the processing and packaging of its products at its Canadian cannery. Like Wild Planet, it actively works to oppose such threats as overfishing, bycatch and habitat damage by tracing the harvesting techniques used to catch the fish it sells.

Another major player in canned tuna business, Starkist, promotes that it was the first company to adopt a dolphin-free policy in 1990. Also a founding member of the ISSF, its corporate responsibility statement talks about its commitment to fighting illegal fishing, promoting marine ecosystem health and its policy of purchasing fish only from ship-owning companies that don't permit shark finning (the practice of collecting fins and discarding the carcass).

With major companies like Chicken of the Sea and Starkist looking to paint themselves more ocean-friendly and smaller businesses like Wild Planet and Raincoast Trading already responding to consumer demand for sustainable foods, it's clear the future of the oceans and the life they sustain are likely to play a steadily increasing role in the thinking and practices of seafood providers.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

14 Ocean Conservation Wins of 2014

Enjoy Seafood While You Can: Commercial Fisheries Likely to Collapse by 2048

DiCaprio Donates $2 Million to Protect the Oceans

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Gretchen Goldman

The Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel has released their consensus recommendations to the EPA administrator on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter. The group of 20 independent experts, that were disbanded by Administrator Wheeler last October and reconvened last week, hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, has now made clear that the current particulate pollution standards don't protect public health and welfare.

Read More Show Less
An African elephant is pictured on November 19, 2012, in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The unprecedented drought that has caused a water crisis in Zimbabwe has now claimed the life of at least 55 elephants since September, according to a wildlife spokesman, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Maria Dornelas.

By John C. Cannon

Life is reshuffling itself at an unsettling clip across Earth's surface and in its oceans, a new study has found.

Read More Show Less
An Exxon station in Florida remains open despite losing its roof during Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. Florida Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Shaun Withers

The country's largest fossil fuel company goes on trial today to face charges that it lied to investors about the safety of its assets in the face of the climate crisis and potential legislation to fight it, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
El Niño's effect on Antarctica is seen in a tabular iceberg off of Thwaites ice shelf. Jeremy Harbeck / NASA

El Niños are getting stronger due to climate change, according to a new study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Julia Ries

  • Antibiotic resistance has doubled in the last 20 years.
  • Additionally a new study found one patient developed resistance to a last resort antibiotic in a matter of weeks.
  • Health experts say antibiotic prescriptions should only be given when absolutely necessary in order to avoid growing resistance.

Over the past decade, antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the greatest public health threats.

Read More Show Less
Pexels


There are hundreds of millions of acres of public land in the U.S., but not everyone has had the chance to hike in a national forest or picnic in a state park.

Read More Show Less
Workers attend to a rooftop solar panel project on May 14, 2017 in Wuhan, China. Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

By Simon Evans

Renewable sources of electricity are set for rapid growth over the next five years, which could see them match the output of the world's coal-fired power stations for the first time ever.

Read More Show Less