Canada’s major canned tuna brands not stacking up on sustainability

Feature story - February 1, 2011
Greenpeace Canada today released its first sustainability ranking of 14 major tuna brands sold in Canada, as industry representatives convene at the annual Seafood Summit in Vancouver.

Greenpeace’s report, Lifting the lid on the major canned tuna brands in Canada: Ranking the sustainability and equitability of tuna sourcing, reveals that most canned tuna lining supermarket shelves comes from destructive and socially irresponsible fisheries. Globally, tuna stocks are on the decline. Tuna fisheries are plagued by overfishing and use fishing techniques that threaten at-risk species such as turtles, sharks and sea birds.

“The destructive practices used to catch most tuna in Canadian stores means consumers could be getting more than they bargained for,” said Sarah King, Greenpeace oceans campaigner. “If consumers knew of the wasted marine life and imperiled tuna caught to produce their can of tuna, they might think twice at the supermarket. Canned tuna is a staple in many Canadian homes and is found in every supermarket chain, but that could change if tuna sourcing doesn’t.”

Greenpeace gave two companies a passing grade: Wild Planet Foods (first place with 65.1 per cent) and Raincoast Trading (second place with 50 per cent). They are on top because their commitments to sustainability are reflected in their actions on the water and on their cans. They use more selective fishing gear, support coastal-state-owned operations, and provide clearer labeling for consumers.

Almost half the companies fell in the 40 per cent range for having developed sustainability policies that for the most part have not yet led to changes in sourcing practices. These include Ocean’s brand (third place); the house brands of Canada’s largest supermarket chains Metro, Sobeys, Loblaw, and Walmart (fourth to seventh places); and Canadian Fishing Company, which markets Gold Seal brand, in eighth place.

Overwaitea Food Group, the leader in Greenpeace’s 2010 supermarket ranking report, placed ninth in this ranking, followed by Safeway. Both companies are exploring more sustainable options but are still sourcing various products of concern.

Well-known national brand Clover Leaf, which holds the largest market share of Canada’s canned seafood, came in 11th. It was one of only two companies that did not respond to the Greenpeace tuna survey. Last place (14th) went to Unico, the other company that did not respond. Unico shows no sign of considering the sustainability or equitability of its tuna.

“Clover Leaf ranked 11th because while it may provide information to consumers on the company’s website about tuna and tuna sustainability initiatives, the company is not forthcoming about what’s really in its cans,” said King. “As a major canned tuna provider, Clover Leaf needs to follow the lead of other companies and be transparent with Greenpeace and its customers about whether all the sustainability talk is reflected in its cans.”

Greenpeace is calling on supermarket chains and tuna brands to provide sustainably sourced tuna by only sourcing from healthy tuna stocks, by avoiding fisheries operating illegally or using indiscriminate fishing methods and by supporting equitable fishing agreements. Greenpeace is also pushing for increased transparency by making information about sourcing publicly available and for improved traceability which should be reflected through comprehensive product labeling.

The tuna brand companies and supermarket chains received the following scores in ranking order 1-14: Wild Planet (65.1%); Raincoast (50.0%); Ocean Fisheries Ltd. (45.7%); Metro (45.2%); Sobeys (42.1%); Loblaw (41.0%); Walmart (40.7%); Canadian Fishing Company (40.4%); Overwaitea Food Group (39.1%); Safeway (30.6%); Clover Leaf Seafoods Company (27.8%); Bolton Alimentari Italia S.p.A. (23.0%); Pastene, Inc. (4.1%); and Unico, Inc. (1.7%).

Download a full copy of the report here

See our tuna brand ranking on line: find out what brands are on top and on the bottom