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Greenpeace: Failing Grade for (Most of) America's Canned Tuna

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Leadership & Transparency
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If you are concerned about the impact of the tuna fishing industry on the world's oceans, you now have a guide. Greenpeace released its Canned Tuna Shopping Guide today, which ranks 14 American canned tuna brands.

The environmental organization ranked canned tuna brands for both how their sourcing practices impact oceans and the safety of the workers. The 14 companies were surveyed by Greenpeace and scored on their sourcing policies and practices, including the ability to trace tuna back to its source.

What Greenpeace found while investigating the U.S. canned tuna market is both good and bad news. Some brands have made great progress, and consumers have several better options to choose from. However, about 80 percent of the U.S. market does not offer even one product that is easily identifiable as sustainable.

The top ranked brand is Wild Planet Foods, whose tuna sourcing policy is the most clearly-defined of the 14 brands surveyed. Social responsibility and environmental issues are included in the sourcing policy, and the company is committed to sourcing only sustainably-caught tuna.

Greenwashing can be found among canned tuna companies as well: Bumble Bee ranks No. 12 in the guide, despite that fact that the company claims to be a leader in sustainability. The company states on its website that it takes “pride in leading our industry with the implementation of a corporate initiative aimed at ensuring the world’s canning grade seafood species that we market to consumers are sourced from stocks that are harvested and managed in a manner which ensures continued supply for future generations.”

Clearly, there is room for improvement if Bumble Bee wants to live up to those words. Thai Union recently put in an acquisition bid for Bumble Bee, which will soon become part of the largest tuna company in the world. With its acquisition of Bumble Bee, Thai Union will control about 40 percent of the American canned tuna market. If Thai Union makes efforts to source more sustainably-caught tuna, it could have a big impact in the American market in a good way.

The bottom eight of the companies ranked in the guide all received a failing grade. Unfortunately, most of the tuna in the U.S. is sold under these brands. The bottom three  companies (Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea and Starkist) represent more than 80 percent of the tuna sold by volume in the U.S. market. That means most of the tuna Americans consume comes from companies that are harming the ocean’s by not sourcing sustainably-caught tuna. And Americans love their canned tuna: The U.S. is the world’s largest market for the product.

Tuna populations have suffered decline, according to Greenpeace, which conducts species assessments. What the assessments have discovered is that most stocks are either overfished or experiencing fishing pressure at an unsustainable rate.

Click here to view the whole list.

Image credit: Roadsidepictures

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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