The Search for Sustainable Tuna

The Search for Sustainable Tuna

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World Tuna Day is May 2. It sounds type of foolish to have an observance day for a fish, however tuna performs a big position in ocean ecosystems and international economics. Canned tuna is the third mostly consumed seafood, and arguably the healthiest animal protein. Without cautious administration of this vital species, your tuna sandwich might contribute to the collapse of ocean ecosystems. Do you understand how sustainable your tuna is?

A Big Fish

There are about 40 species of tuna and tuna-like fish swimming within the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans in addition to the Mediterranean Sea. Most tuna is caught for 2 markets – canning and sushi. Light meat species like skipjack and yellowfin are primarily canned. Bluefin, ahi, and different crimson meat species are most popular for recent fish markets. Tuna are apex predators that regulate populations of many different species, together with squid, herring, and sardines.

Worth virtually $10 billion per 12 months, tuna accounts for 20% of the worth of all marine seize fisheries and over 8% of all globally traded seafood. Approximately 7 million metric tons of tuna fish are caught every year. That quantity threatens the long-term viability of tuna shares. More than 96 nations are concerned in tuna conservation and administration. The Common Oceans ABNJ Program has decreased the variety of main tuna shares experiencing overfishing from 13 to 5, decreased bycatch and air pollution, and closed 18 susceptible marine ecosystems to fishing.

Bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus saltwater fish
Bluefin tuna

Dolphin Safe

For many people, environmentally accountable purchasing started with the dolphin-safe label on canned tuna. The label was by no means meant to ensure sustainability. It solely pertains to minimizing dolphin bycatch (seize of non-target species). Dolphins aren’t the one unintentional casualties of tuna fishing, however there’s a unique association between tuna and dolphins in sure fisheries that places them at specific threat.

Dolphin safe label

Tuna firms use quite a few dolphin-safe label variations, together with the official Department of Commerce seal and Earth Island Institute’s emblem. Dolphin secure labels have repeatedly been topic to criticism (most not too long ago, the documentary Seaspiracy cast doubt on whether or not Earth Island Institute verifies claims). Although tuna fisheries are more and more clear, onboard human observer protection and digital monitoring techniques are not universal, nor are they mandated wherever on the planet.

U.S. Dept. of Commerce Dolphin Safe label

For tuna to qualify as “dolphin-safe”, U.S. regulations require a written assertion from the vessel captain certifying that fishing gear was not deliberately used to encircle dolphins and that no dolphins had been killed or critically injured within the technique of catching the tuna. The Tuna Tracking and Verification Program spot checks tuna merchandise in retail shops. It verifies the authenticity of the dolphin-safe label and the authorized importation of the product into the United States. The manufacturers that cross the verify are listed online.


Dolphins aren’t the one bycatch of tuna fishing. Juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna faculty with grownup skipjack. When juveniles are caught as bycatch, they by no means get to spawn, and shares decline. In Fiji, sharks have offered an issue. To be sustainable, tuna fisheries should make use of confirmed methods to minimize all bycatch, not solely dolphins.

Sustainable Tuna

As at all times, research the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch recommendations. Avoid tuna caught utilizing purse seines with floating objects (a.okay.a. “FAD purse seines”). Currently, 5 of the 13 main tuna fisheries are overfished: these embrace all bluefin tuna; Indian Ocean yellowfin, bigeye (ahi), and albacore; and Atlantic Ocean bigeye (ahi).

Most tuna caught by U.S. fisheries are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives” apart from Atlantic-caught bluefin and bigeye (ahi). Preferred fishing strategies embrace harpoons, pole-and-line gears, or purse seines that don’t use floating objects (a.okay.a. “non-FAD purse seines” or “FAD-free”).

Marine Stewardship Council Certification label

Look for the Marine Stewardship Council Certification. MSC is a third-party, science-based certification that features requirements for chain of custody, minimization of bycatch, and species inhabitants ranges.

Reading Labels

If you possibly can’t discover MSC-certified tuna, how do you discover the following most suitable option? Decoding tuna labels is hard, however tuna needs to be labeled with the nation of origin. Some tuna cans will determine the fishery or fishing methodology. Since canned tuna, like most chocolate, will not be “single origin,” this will embrace an inventory similar to “Indian Ocean (51,57) Pacific Ocean (71, 77, 61).” The numbers check with United Nations space designations and might be discovered on the MSC “Track a Fishery” web site. Chicken of the Sea permits you to trace your tuna primarily based on codes on the can (though these searches generally come up clean).

That’s a whole lot of work for a can of tuna, however that is one state of affairs the place model loyalty is smart. Study the tuna out there at your native grocery retailer. When you determine essentially the most sustainable selection, keep it up. Then, just like the certification techniques, you solely have to spot-check over time to make sure your tuna nonetheless meets requirements.