Product of the Week: Tuna (canned)
The Big Tuna
Americans love tuna any way we can get it, maybe its our pursuit of the Omega-3 fatty acids or another excuse to slather something in mayonnaise and call it “salad.” Hey, we’re on a diet here at Klerify and love all salads.
Every year, the love of tuna as sushi, sashimi, or canned leads to fishermen catching 3.5 million tons of tuna fish for cans, and 700,000 tons for sashimi/sushi. All that tuna is sold for over $44 billion, globally. So you’d figure with all that money, tuna would be a sustainable food source. Sadly, it isn’t.
The USA is the leading consumer of canned tuna, globally, so we have a big influence on the future of tuna. That fishy smell from your favorite canned tuna isn’t just the fish it’s most likely also the scent of unsustainable fishing!
Tuna: the dodo of the sea?
Due to our huge appetite for tuna, there is a good chance that several tuna species will go extinct within our lifetime! That’s bad news for tuna lovers, and its bad news for the oceans that rely on tuna as a key species to maintain balance in the seas. According to WWF and other experts, over the last 40 years, tuna populations have dropped by 75%. That’s huge!
The Bluefin tuna is an example of a species en route to extinction, unless we change. This majestic one thousand pound fish that can live 40 years. It is highly coveted and can fetch over $1 million per fish! Blue fin populations are down 96% according to scientists. That’s like if all the people in the United States disappeared, except for those in Illinois. (Maybe the Cubs could finally win the World Series - editor’s note: it’s gonna happen)!
In addition to the Blue Fin, there are several species of tuna that also face extinction from overfishing. Beyond not wanting to feel guilty for killing off the tuna, overfishing can also put the food chain out of whack. Tuna are at the top and there would be repercussions across the ocean if we lost this important fish. We need to do something to prevent the extinction of tuna otherwise our oceans’ health and our health as a society are at risk because we rely on the oceans for a lot!
Location, location, location
Tuna live in oceans around the world. The fishermen and governments in the tuna fisheries manage the harvests differently – some more sustainably than others. When buying tuna, you might see something referring to where that particular fish called home. This can help guide if its sustainably caught or not. The best thing to do, is still to look for a sustainability label.
What do you mean that tuna fisheries managed differently?
Well, tuna fishermen fish in different ways. As you might imagine, some are better for the health of the ocean and some are better for profit. Most of the problems arise from overfishing tuna and “bycatch” or the other animals that get caught in the crossfire by tuna fisherman. Bycatch is a technical term for other fish, cute turtles, dolphins, and other sea creatures caught and typically killed. According to Greenpeace Chicken of the Sea, Starkist and Bumblee source from ships that have a lot of bycatch. 30% of all the weight caught by tuna boats is not tuna. Just think of the turtles and dolphins when you buy unsustainable tuna!
Pole-and-line and trolling caught tuna are the safest methods that reduce the probability of hooking the wrong fish/animal/person. And on top of avoiding harm to other creatures, this creates more jobs for people in developing countries (yay!). Anything with nets is pretty bad news.
Pay more now, enjoy tuna later, and don’t harm dolphins and turtles!
Paying a little more for sustainable tuna is worth it. Sustainable fishing operations cost more money to make up for the extra fish that would further deplete fish populations by charging a little extra for each fish they do sell.
Cheaper tuna typically overharvest tuna, catch other creatures, and don’t care for our future and the future of the oceans. Oh, yeah, and sometimes big tuna fleets that unsustainably harvest the oceans also enslave people to work aboard the ships. NBD, right? Wrong.
Wouldn’t you pay a bit more to do the right thing?
Holy tuna, how can I possibly make the right decision?
If you had to singlehandedly go through every single type of tuna before you buy it and validate its location, catch method, and species to understand how sustainable that combination…you wouldn’t do it. Fortunately, there are some people trying to help out with this and are doing it for you.
First, look for Marine Stewardship Council Certified fish (MSC). This organization audits and that certifies the tuna was caught sustainably.
Use Klerify. We can help you understand which sustainable canned tuna brands to buy and what brands to avoid. Don’t buy the red brands! You might like buying these brands, but we can’t get them to change if we keep buying from them.
If you are buy tuna at the store counter or a restaurant, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site does a great job of helping you understand which combinations of tuna species, catching method, and sourcing location are sustainable.
Brands to buy
Use your small choice to make a big impact for tuna this weekend at the store. Buy green brands and skip red brands:
😃 Green: Wild Planet, American Tuna, Open Seas
😐 Yellow: Ocean Naturals, Whole Foods 365
😡 Red: BumbleBee, Chicken of the Sea, Starkist
You can definitely get more sustainable tuna at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s!
Also, feel free to give tuna a break, and don’t eat it for a while.
We are not making this up… Read some more!