The tuna market in Australia is worth an estimated $300 million a year, with canned tuna being our highest selling seafood product. Unfortunately though, scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature have warned that 5 out of the 8 tuna species are at risk of extinction.This includes the ever popular yellowfin tuna which is near threatened. Sadly, there are still some major tuna brands available on our shelves that catch and sell yellowfin tuna. In addition, bluefin tuna is actually listed as number 6 on the worlds 10 most endangered species list. Whilst canned in places like Thailand, the majority of Australia's tuna is caught in the Pacific where tuna stocks are plummeting!
What does this mean for the consumer? Well, rest easy... it doesn't mean you have to stop eating or buying tuna, it just means that we all need to start making informed choices about the canned tuna we purchase.
Earlier this month, Greenpeace revealed Australia's first sustainable canned tuna range by major Australian tuna brand Safcol at the launch of it's tuna ranking at Sydney Aquarium. I was lucky enough to have been invited to this event thanks to the lovely Elsa from Greenpeace Australia. Also in attendance was celebrity chef Ben O'Donoghue and representatives from Greenpeace, Safcol and First Ray - Fish 4 Ever.
What we all learnt was that there are two major issues:
1. Certain tuna species are overfished and this is has contributed to 5 out of the 8 species of tuna being threatened or near threatened.
2. That the majority of tuna available in our supermarkets is caught in a way that catches turtles and sharks and is wiping out threatened tuna species. The tuna is caught in nets called 'purse seines' along with Fish Aggregation Devices ( FADs).
I wasn't aware of what a FAD was until it was explained that these devices are floating objects , often equipped with satellite-linked sonar devices, around which tuna instinctively gather. Unfortunately, these devices also attract juvenile tuna, sharks and turtles which are all scooped up by fishing nets and are mostly discarded as waste. This near broke my heart!!! What made it even more heart breaking is that sustainable methods of fishing are available, they just aren't being used by the majority of brands.
The Greenpeace tuna ranking is a great tool for the conscientious consumer who is concerned about ethical and sustainable food. It aims to expose which brands are selling over fished tuna species and are using destructive fishing methods. Check it out below or to find out more about the Greenpeace tuna ranking click here
The day was significant because not only did it promote the new Greenpeace tuna ranking guide but it was the first time that a major Australian tuna brand has committed to change it's approach to tuna fishing by switching to 100% pole and line caught tuna. According to Dean DeVilliers from Safcol, they adopted this new sustainable fishing method in May earlier this year and no longer target yellowfin tuna, opting to target skipjack tuna instead. He also mentioned how they use 1 hook, 1 line and catch 1 tuna at a time and they don't use any barbs on their hooks. A major step forward indeed!
Celebrity Chef Ben O'Donoghue greeted the crowd and spoke about the industrialisation of our food chain, the destructive nature of FADS, how educating and empowering the consumer is important and how we need to adopt sustainable practices particularly when it comes to tuna fishing.
Finally, Belinda from Fish 4 Ever discussed the positive impact of the tuna ranking system and how it is important that we continue to promote community education about tuna fishing practices. Fish 4 Ever are ranked #1 on the Greenpeace tuna ranking ahead of Safcol and whilst not available in major supermarkets yet, it can be purchased at Thomas Dux, IGA supermarkets and at Organic Food stores around Australia. You can also purchase and find out more about Fish 4 Ever online here.
We don't have to stop buying canned tuna, but as consumers it is important that we make informed choices about how our food is produced. Through our collective voice we can help demand better fishing practices and the Greenpeace Tuna Ranking guide can help us all to do this. For a delicious tuna rigatoni recipe you can make using tuna you have purchased using the new tuna ranking guide head on over to my guest post at Eat Yourself Skinny here