After months of anticipation, Canada Safeway has officially unveiled its new line of SAFEWAY brand canned skipjack (chunk light and flaked light) tuna. And why should you fellow ocean-lovers care? Because the skipjack isn’t sourced from destructive purse seine fisheries that employ harmful fish aggregating devices (FADs), floating objects meant to attract tuna but end up luring and often killing other marine life. Safeway’s skipjack is 100 per cent FAD-free, and as the first retailer in Canada to offer this product in its private label, the chain is leading the charge in offering its customers greener options in the canned seafood aisle.

This marks a significant moment in the sustainable tuna movement. As big buyers and sellers of canned tuna, retailers have a key role to play in helping to create incentive for the tuna industry to change its largely destructive ways. By publically committing to provide more sustainable canned tuna options for their customers, new demands are placed on suppliers sparking movement, innovation and ultimately positive change. Of course change at the scale that is needed to enable tuna stocks, at-risk species and devastated ocean ecosystems to recover and flourish is far more complex than the idea that creating the demand will eventually ensure the supply, but the more companies vowing to be part of the solution, the more eyes that are on the tuna industry, the more likely it will be for large-scale change on the water.

Around the globe, major tuna brands and retailers are pulling Redlist tuna from their offerings. John West Australia, the country’s largest tuna brand, is the latest to announce it will change its ways. In Canada, 2012 marked the beginning of real, positive change in the canned tuna market with Canfisco committing to a 100 per cent switch of all Gold Seal skipjack to FAD-fee or pole and line by 2015, Ocean Brands introducing a pole and line skipjack product, Loblaw’s introduction of a troll-caught albacore line to its private label President’s Choice brand, and Raincoast Trading and Wild Planet strengthening their already strong commitments to ensuring only sustainable-caught tuna to their customers.

And it was last year that Safeway amended its sustainable sourcing policy for its seafood to set specific goals around its canned tuna. It began to address unsustainable supply by removing Redlist yellowfin tuna, a heavily fished tuna species known to have suffered significant population declines finding it a place on the IUCN’s near-threatened list. With skipjack now finding greener pastures, the next species to tackle is albacore, usually caught by longlines which also cause high levels of bycatch. At the rate Safeway is going, it is up for the challenge. Greenpeace and I’m sure Safeway’s customers alike look forward to when all SAFEWAY brand tuna is ocean-friendly.

Greenpeace Canada’s next tuna ranking will be out this spring and we’re hoping to continue to see Canada’s brands take responsibility for the sustainability and equitability of the tuna they sell. Canada’s biggest brand, Clover Leaf, has yet to join the leaders. Join our campaign to Change Clover Leaf’s tuna here.