The annual Canned Tuna Ranking assesses fishing practices and social responsibility to determine which brands are sustainable and which should be avoided.
When is the last time you examined a can of tuna? A lot of information is packed onto the labels of those small tins, but it’s important to decipher and understand it thoroughly before deciding which brand to buy. Fortunately for shoppers, Greenpeace wants to make this as easy as possible. Its annual Canned Tuna Ranking was released today, and it assesses the ethical and environmental practices behind the 20 most popular tuna brands in the United States.
Results for 2017 are mixed. Many large grocery retailers have made progress over the past year, responding to customers’ demands for responsibly sourced tuna. Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, Wegmans, Giant Eagle, Albertsons, ALDI, Ahold Delhaize, and Kroger have all cleaned up their store brands and others sold on their shelves. The four best tuna brands are currently Wild Planet, American Tuna, Whole Foods, and Ocean Naturals, in that order.
Unfortunately, Greenpeace reports that the three biggest tuna companies – Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee, and StarKist – have shown little improvement on sustainability and social responsibility. These brands continue to be sold by Walmart, Target, H-E-B, Costco, and Supervalu, which accept the industry’s low standards without demanding a better product.
What should shoppers look for on a can of tuna?
Greenpeace explains in its Decode the Can guide:
Pole and Line Caught is the best option. It is “a fishing method that catches tuna one-by-one with the use of a pole. Usually several fishers line the perimeter of a boat and catch tuna at the same time using baitfish.”
No Longlines is always good. It means the tuna has been caught “without using longlines, which stretch for miles with thousands of hooks that can cause the drowning of species incidentally caught like seabirds, sharks, and turtles.”
Troll Caught is a safe option. It is a “method of fishing where one or more jigged fishing lines are towed through the water behind a slow-moving boat. It is a selective method with minimal catch of other marine life.”
Handlines mean that a single line is held by a fisher to catch tuna one by one.
FAD-free or "free school caught" means that no ‘fish aggregation devices’ (FADs) have been used to attract tuna and other marine species artificially. This is very important to note.
When choosing a species, skipjack is preferable because its stocks are the most abundant. It’s often labeled as ‘light tuna’ on the can, but check ingredients to be sure. Avoid yellowfin, tongol, and bigeye. Albacore should only come from the Pacific, where stocks are in much better shape than elsewhere.
Stay away from:
Phrases that mean little, such as “dolphin-safe,” “ocean-safe,” “friend of the sea,” “responsibly or sustainably caught,” “wild caught,” etc. Look for precise details about how the tuna was caught and what species it is.
You can read the full guide here.