On May 2, 2017 we celebrated the first-ever World Tuna Day, see our Blue Ocean post: So, it is very appropriate that we follow that with a seafood update that includes the latest info on canned tuna.
Tuna in a handy can is a ubiquitous food worldwide. In the United States alone, 700 million pounds of canned tuna were eaten in 2015 – that’s 2.2 pounds per person, ranking it in the top three seafoods that Americans favor. But do you know where this canned tuna came from?
Over the last decade people have shown increasing interest and concern over the sources of their fresh seafood purchases. Is your salmon, farm raised or wild? Is it tainted with mercury? Is your shrimp sustainably raised? But so far not much attention has been directed at canned tuna, whose sales dwarf that of fresh seafood. But as reported by www.npr.com that is changing. (photo – npr)
Whole Foods Chooses Sustainable Tuna Sources
Last month the supermarket chain Whole Foods announced that no later than January, 2018 all the canned tuna sold in its stores will come from sources that use sustainable fishing methods – such as pole-and-line, troll or hand-line fishing methods. In addition, this new policy requires that Whole Foods’ sources be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the Monterey Bay Aquarium or the Safina Center.
Traceability is another component in the Whole Foods Sustainable Seafood Policy, making it mandatory that tuna sold in their stores be mapped throughout the supply chain, from catch to can. Tracebility is critical because much of the tuna imported into the U.S. comes from sources overseas where illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is rampant. IUU tuna fishing fleets are found primarily in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Ecuador.
Insuring that tuna fisheries abide by approved fishing methods is necessary to avoid the bycatch that threatens marine mammals, sea birds and untargeted fish that is a result of unapproved fishing methods. (photo – fishwrecked.com)
Whole Foods joins with grocery chain Safeway that began labeling its sustainably caught, canned tuna in 2012 along with other retailers like Giant Eagle and Hy-Vee. Hopefully this will pressure the large tuna manufacturers like Starkist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee to adopt sustainable tuna sourcing practices. Currently, about 98% of tuna is deemed dolphin-safe but it is misleading since unsustainable fishing practices are still used to catch tuna.
“Dolphin-safe isn’t enough anymore,” says Bigelow of Sea Food Watch. “Look for pole and line caught, labels that say FAD free, and some kind of certification is usually a helpful guide.”
Mariah Boyle of FishWise, is a Seafood Champion
There is more hope for sustainable fishing. Rather treating fishing fleets as pariahs, Fishwise is working to help the seafood industry to further their sustainability efforts. While at FishWise over the last eight years Mariah Boyle has collaborated with the U.S. National Fisheries Institute; NOAA and the US State Department to get the fishing industry onboard with sustainability. Most recently she is working to bridge the gap between social and environmental issue by creating resources for the seafood industry, giving them the information necessary to improve their environmental and social responsibility. Mariah is a finalist in the Leadership Category at the Seafood Champion Awards. Read more about Mariah’s work at SeaWeb.
Where Did All the Sardines Go?
While there is still tuna in the sea, the sardine population is suffering. For the third consecutive year, the Pacific commercial sardine season has been closed early for not having sufficient stock to support continued fishing. (photo – oceana)
“This modern day Pacific sardine crash, which was exacerbated by excessive fishing when the population was falling, underscores the need for new approaches to fishery management,” said Oceana’s Geoff Shester. “We hope managers learn from this and strengthen safeguards to protect sardines and the ocean wildlife dependent on sardines, while also supporting sustainable fishing communities.”
See more on this story and other related issues like: collecting marine data in the Bering Sea; fisheries management in the Coral Triangle and the shrinking habitat of the Dugong in the Arabian Gulf in our recent Blue Ocean post: Old Fish, New Fish, All Things Fish, plus Whales, Sharks and Dugongs
What you can do to Choose Sustainable Tuna
- Use this handy Tuna Shopping Guide to make sure you are not destroying the sea for the love of tuna melts.
- For a broader range of seafood choices use the Seafood Watch Guide, Safina Center Healthy Oceans Guide, or SeaChoice Guide
- Look for the Marine Stewardship Council label when you are choosing seafood.
- Sign this Walmart petition to encourage this giant retailer to sell 100% sustainable canned tuna.
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