Our Seafood Watch pocket guides (and iPhone app) are designed to help you have a conversation at the fresh fish counter, or the restaurant. But how do you converse with a can?
In our newly minted July 2010 pocket guides (download one today), we're suggesting that tuna lovers who care about ocean wildlife take a careful look at canned tuna labels for clues about ocean-friendly choices.
I'm sure many of you look for the "dolphin-friendly" label. Actually (good news) ALL tuna sold in the U.S. is dolphin friendly; that's the law. So what else can you look for?
Here are our four top tips as you browse the aisle:
1. Look for the blue eco-label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - as featured on the back of our pocket guide. Albacore tuna caught by eco-friendly methods on the Pacific coast is certified to the MSC standards and is being seen increasingly regularly in stores. (In fact, if you stop by the Aquarium Gift & Bookstore you can purchase a can or two!)
2. Look for an indication of how the tuna was caught. We recommend you look for one of the following:
- "troll-caught "
- "pole-and-line caught"
These are all methods that practically eliminate bycatch of unwanted ocean wildlife - one of the biggest issues of concern with the other methods of catching the nation's second most popular seafood item.
3. Buyer beware! "Line-caught" usually indicates longline, not a single hook-and-line. Longlines can be 60 miles long, or more, with thousands of baited hooks that snag unsuspecting animals like endangered albatross, sea turtles and sharks. Longlining is the most common way to catch albacore tuna - commonly sold as "white tuna" or "solid white."
4. If you're looking at a can of "light" tuna - which could be skipjack, tongol, yellowfin, bigeye, or a combination of these, again look for troll- or pole-caught. If the label doesn't say how the tuna was caught, then it's safe to assume that it was caught in purse seine nets. Unfortunately, this catch method often results in the bycatch of many other species, and also of juvenile tuna that will never get a chance to have offspring of their own.
The good news is that more and more retailers are bringing the ocean-friendly products to their shelves - and asking their suppliers to use ocean-friendly fishing methods. Demand from consumers, just like you, really makes a difference.
That's what happens when you're a can-do tuna shopper!