Tuning Into Tuna

For many years, I have quite happily cracked a can of tuna, spilled its flaky contents into my salad, or pasta, or baking tray, and devoured the flavoursome fish like a tabby at dinner time.

Normal yes? Well, for some. For others it might be akin to stabbing themselves in the eye. Because let’s face it, canned fish is one of those things, like politics and paw paw, that you either love, or absolutely HATE. Clearly I’m a lover, not a hater and the fact that I’m eating fish IN A CAN doesn’t really bother me too much. Until I write it and contemplate it and then it does actually become a little gross. Anyhoo, that’s not the point of this post, so we must push on.

The point of this post, Happies, is to bring your attention to the fact that the cans on the shelves of our local supermarket aren’t always telling the truth. They may not be lying as such, but they sure know how to bend the truth.

I was at About Life in Bondi the other day, getting sucked into all kinds of exciting new food items to try, when I noticed a sign in the tuna section. It made reference to unsustainable fishing practices by many of the big brand tuna companies we eat all the time.

Surprisingly, they only stock two brands, as they’re committed to only stocking the most ethical tuna brands on the market. The first, Fish4Ever is highly regarded within the fishing industry, and with policies including these, it’s really no surprise…

1. For each and every species of fish we pack, we will use methods and equipment that are as targeted as possible to achieve near-zero by-catch. This means that with respect to tuna fisheries, we refuse gillnets, dolphin-sets, long lines and purse-seiners setting on FAD’s. All these methods are regarded as having too much by-catch risk.

2. We do not catch or pack any fish that is bottom dwelling at present and so our fishing do not involve equipment that can damage fragile eco-systems at the bottom of the sea. There are some products that we have been looking at and, were we to add these, we would only do so using the most selective method possible – for example we would not support dredging or trawling.

The list goes on, making sure that all their fish, not just tuna, comes from suppliers in-tune (ha!) with sustainable fishing and ensuring the eco-system isn’t destroyed in the meantime.

The other, more affordable option was, in fact, Greenseas. Now this brand, I’ve heard of. Greenseas for me has always taken a back seat to Sirena, which saddens me so much and really makes me want to smack myself for being so unaware and naive for all these years. Naughty Yaz.

Greenseas has actually had a big pat on the back from Greenpeace and is also well regarded when it comes to fish in cans. Which, mind you, I’m still thinking is strange (until tomorrow lunch time when my weekly can will make a cameo in the office).

So Happies, please heed this warning. If, like me, you’re a tuna eater, please take the time to know WHERE your fish is coming from. In Australia, the majority of our canned fish comes from Thailand, or more specifically, the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). And even more specifically, within equatorial waters of the WCPO (10N and 10S, and 130E and 150W), and within the national waters of many Pacific Island Countries. This is good news for us, as the WCPO is regarded as the world’s most robust tuna fishery. Awesome!

As well as seeing where your tuna is coming from, it’s also important to see WHAT variety your fish is. Skipjack is the most popular on our shores and it’s also the most sustainable, being fished at around 70%. That means it can hack an increase in fishing, unlike its mate, Yellowfin, who is on the verge of being over fished if demand increases. Bigeye is another variety that isn’t common in Australia, however, he sometimes gets caught when they’re fishing for Skipjack or Yellowfin and he’s not really keen on it, so let’s try to avoid buying him, if possible please. Bluefin isn’t used much in Australia either, but if you see it don’t buy it, as he’s on the verge of endangerment. Poor mate.

The final cut in the tuna can comes in the form of knowing HOW your tuna is being caught. This should be openly specified on the can, so look for words like Pole, Line, or Purse-Seine. Purse-Seine is where the fishermen use a net to encircle the fish and then tie it up like a purse to catch them. About 70% of the fishing in the WCPO is done using this method. The other two methods, Long Line Fishing and Pole and Line Fishing make up the rest of the quota, with long line fishing being less targeted and catching sharks and other fish off guard. That’s not cool, is it?

Tell me Happies…

Are you aware when it comes to canned tuna?

Are you a canned fish lover or hater?

Has this helped you make the switch?



  1. eskimojo · February 8, 2011

    Yay, I’m glad you’ve written about this, Yaz.

    My fiance and I have avoided tuna for the past year or so after learning most of the stuff we would get is from purse-seining. Just a couple of weeks ago we discovered Fish4Ever, and will be buying it regularly now.

    We recently watched a doco from the UK by Hugh Farnley Whittingsall (no idea if that’s spelled correctly) about UK fisheries, and it was flabbergasting. You can see some detail and sign a petition to change their laws at http://www.fishfight.net/ It’s for the UK at the moment but if one of the big nations makes wide changes it will hopefully pressure other nations to as well!

  2. Pingback: The 30 Second Lunch Recipe I Live For | The Happiness Cocktail

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