Which tuna should I buy?

Standard Page - 13 May, 2011
Tuna brands play a key role in the overfishing crisis by selling us unsustainable tuna. It's time every brand takes responsibility.

Welcome to the Greenpeace canned tuna ranking

Two years ago, Greenpeace campaigned to have Australia’s biggest tuna supplier, John West, commit to 100% FAD-free and pole and line tuna. Since then, every other brand and retailer in our ranking made a similar commitment. In this year's guide, for the first time ever, we can say that there's now more tuna caught using responsible, lower impact fishing methods on our shelves than tuna caught using destructive FADs.

We saw massive improvements this year from Sirena and Sole Mare, both previously ranked in the red, but now declaring they've switched to 100% pole and line caught tuna - unfortunately, they still rely on less sustainable yellowfin tuna.

The biggest improvement has come from Coles which is now sourcing 100% FAD-free skipjack tuna from the West and Central Pacific - the most sustainable tuna stock.

While there's still improvements to be made by most brands, especially on labelling, traceability, species choice and fair sourcing policies, this is great news for consumers and the oceans.

All the tuna we eat is caught here in our region, most of it from the Pacific ocean. So, every can of tuna that you buy that was caught using sustainable fishing methods, or harvesting a species not-at-risk is doing a favour for coastal fishers right here in Australia and our neighbours in the Pacific.

So what should I buy?

It's simple, look for 'pole and line' or ‘FAD-free’ canned tuna products and you will be making the right choice for our oceans. Choose skipjack and albacore over yellowfin tuna. Make sure the tuna you buy clearly has the species name, where it was caught, with the fishing method used written clearly on the label. Thankfully, you can now find a great variety of these products in every supermarket in Australia.

Roll your mouse over a brand on the left to see how they rate


Still top of the pile, this UK company continues to provide the best example of fair and environmentally sound sourcing of tuna. Fish4Ever pioneered sustainable ‘pole and line’ caught tuna in Australia and its commitment continues undiminished to promote fisheries that benefit local communities. Fish4Ever is still the benchmark of sustainable fishing practice.
  • 100% 'pole and line' caught tuna.
  • Promotes sustainable tuna in political, industry and consumer fora.
  • Supports local coastal fisheries and pays a premium price to local fishers.
  • Clear, honest, comprehensive labelling.
  • Funds and supports ethical fishing projects.
  • Should phase out overfished yellowfin - especially from the Atlantic Ocean, which is notoriously over-fished.


Almost exclusively using pole and line caught tuna, Safcol is still one of the best, widely available tuna brands in Australia even if there has been little improvement over last year. Safcol has maintained its commitments to 100% 'pole and line' and FAD-free skipjack tuna so all its tuna sold in supermarkets is fished using responsible methods. Safcol could improve its equity policy and invest in better traceability.
  • Publicly supports marine reserves.
  • 100% responsibly caught tuna since 2012.
  • Promotes sustainable fishing methods and the conservation of overfished tuna species like yellowfin.
  • Good labelling.
  • Needs to improve its equitable sourcing policy.
  • Should improve traceability audits.


Coles' has successfully made the transition to FAD-free and ‘pole and line’ tuna, comfortably meeting its 2015 deadline. Coles has a solid sustainability policy for its private label tuna and has made a good species choice using only skipjack. Luckily for consumers, all Coles brand tuna is now being sourced with responsible fishing methods. Coles has also invested in research that supports better traceability in the Pacific.
  • Good species choices - with skipjack sourced only from the Western Central Pacific Ocean.
  • Avoids yellowfin tuna based on sustainability concerns.
  • FAD-free fishing methods used.
  • Strong on labelling by supplying species name, catch method and catch area.
  • Supports marine reserves.
  • Should do more to promote sustainable options in store and avoid promoting brands that have poor sustainability credentials.


ALDI is full-steam ahead on improving its sustainability practice thanks to innovative traceability and transparency on its labels. ALDI is currently only ordering ‘pole and line’ and FAD-free tuna and are running through old stock - well on track to meet its 2016 deadline. By offering the consumer a clear ‘pole and line' message on cans and in-store advertising, ALDI are going the extra mile to promote sustainable fishing practice. Unfortunately, ALDI still uses at-risk yellowfin tuna in its Ocean Rise range, so be sure to choose it's more sustainable Portview option instead.
  • Currently sourcing ‘pole and line' and FAD-free tuna only.
  • Publicly supports marine reserves and does not source from the Pacific high seas pockets.
  • Publicly supports reducing FAD use.
  • Strong on traceability and good at providing information to the public.
  • Proactive equity policy.
  • Still using less sustainable yellowfin tuna.

John West

John West is continuing to improve its sustainability practice and is holding to its commitment to source only ‘pole and line' and FAD-free tuna however this may not be on shelves until the end of 2015. Improvements have been made in traceability and sourcing policy. John West is engaged in a valuable project in the Pacific that aims to improve environmental and social outcomes for coastal communities. Labelling has improved, but doesn’t provide ‘catch area’.
  • 100% skipjack tuna, mostly from the Western Central Pacific Ocean.
  • Supports marine reserves and valuable sustainability projects.
  • Good traceability, but improvements can be made.
  • Improved labelling but can do better on fishing area.
  • Will still use FADs until the middle of 2015.

Make a better choice

Until its new sustainability commitment is implemented toward the middle of 2015 it's best to stick to John West's pole and line range. If you choose John West, choose this.


Last year Sirena successfully transitioned to 100% ‘pole and line', well ahead of its 2016 schedule. Sirena supports locally owned fisheries and development initiatives and has good regulations in place to avoid illegal and unregulated fishing.It also has excellent traceability. Unfortunately, Sirena continues to rely on less sustainable yellowfin and tonggol tuna. Labelling is very poor as Sirena fail to disclose what species of tuna is contained in the tin.
  • 100% ‘pole and line’.
  • Supports positive sustainability and development initiatives.
  • Good traceability.
  • Poor labelling for species.
  • Relies on less sustainable yellowfin tuna.


Woolworths has recently made some good moves with a successful switch to sustainable fishing methods. 'Select' brand is now 100% skipjack and 'pole and line' caught while Woolworths’ 'Home brand' tuna is now FAD-free. Unfortunately, it has provided Greenpeace with no evidence regarding the traceability of its supply chain and still has no available policy to ensure equitable sourcing. Woolworths’ public commitment is a good one, but it needs to be backed up by transparency.
  • Home Brand canned tuna is now FAD-free ahead of Woolworths’ 2015 target date.
  • Select canned tuna is skipjack and all pole & line caught with one line of MSC certified albacore.
  • Labels the species name for most products but doesn't disclose specific catch area.
  • No available policy that ensures equitable sourcing.
  • No evidence of traceability provided.
  • Continues to use yellowfin tuna.


Despite little improvement in the past year, IGA has maintained previous commitments and is heading steadily towards a FAD-free future. Luckily for consumers, IGA added two 'pole and line' range to its private label in 2012 and is continuing to work towards an entirely FAD-free range during 2015. Their sourcing commitments are not backed up by effective third party audits. If they meet their 100% FAD-free commitment, their 'Black & Gold' tuna will be responsibly caught by September 2015 as well.
  • 100% skipjack tuna from the Western Central Pacific Oceans.
  • Supports Pacific Commons marine reserves and fisheries improvement.
  • Offers a 'pole and line' option.
  • Will finish the transition to 100% FAD-free in 2015.
  • Good labelling that now includes species and fishing method, but lacking in catch area.
  • Needs to ensure third party audits.

Make a better choice

IGA has committed to end destructive fishing methods by mid-2015 for all its tuna and it also offers this pole and line product. For now, if you choose IGA, choose this.

Sole Mare

This past year has been a big one for Sole Mare as the company has made a dramatic shift to responsible fishing methods. Its new range, launching early 2015, is 100% ‘pole and line’. It has also made commitments to internal and third party audits, commencing in 2015. Unfortunately, its product range is still based entirely on yellowfin tuna which is fished at an unsustainable level and it is still developing its sustainability policy and information disclosure. Sole Mare has shown huge improvements and we look forward to seeing them do better next year.
  • Now 100% ‘pole and line’.
  • Will begin both internal and third party audits in 2015.
  • Labelling has improved with catch method and species but catch area still needs to be labelled.
  • Exclusively uses yellowfin tuna.
  • No policies in place to ensure against illegal, un-regulated fishing.
  • No guarantee not to source from high seas pockets.
  • Poor equity standards.


Greenseas was the first big brand to make the positive commitment to stop using destructive fish aggregating devices (FADs) by 2016 but has since then failed to provide evidence that it is sticking to these commitments. Greenseas continues to source 100% skipjack tuna from the Western Central Pacific Ocean and has previously provided financial support to improve Pacific fisheries science and conservation measures. This year Greenseas has fallen behind its competitors due to lack of commitment and lack of traceability. Choose something else until the full FAD-free transition is implemented.
  • 100% skipjack tuna from the Western Central Pacific Ocean.
  • Publicly supports marine reserves and does not source from the Pacific Commons.
  • Offers valuable support for Pacific fisheries scientists and conservation groups.
  • Provides good information on its website and recognises its unsustainable practices.
  • Reasonable labelling for species, catch method and fishing area.
  • Should offer a pole and line alternative until FAD-free hits shelves.
  • Continues to use FADs, with no sign of following through with its commitments.
  • Has made no improvements in the past year.

What tuna should I buy?

Most tuna brands remain hooked on destructive fishing practices, which threaten tuna stocks and unnecessarily kill other marine life.

Thankfully, consumer pressure has forced many brands to change their tuna. You can now buy sustainable ‘pole and line' caught tuna in nearly every supermarket around Australia.

Put one of these products into your basket and make a better choice for our oceans.

How were brands ranked?

The tuna brands were ranked based on the following criteria:

Sustainability Policy

It is essential that companies have in place an effective policy that ensures their products are produced sustainably.

Fishing methods used

Most tuna is caught using purse seine nets with fish aggregation devices (FADs), a method responsible for high levels of bycatch including sharks and other marine life, as well as juvenile tuna from threatened species. In contrast, 'pole and line' fishing offers a less wasteful solution, with reduced bycatch. 'Pole and line' fisheries also tend to offer greater economic returns to local populations. Purse seine fishing without FADs is an acceptable secondary option.

Tuna species used

Each tuna species is under different levels of pressure. Bigeye and yellowfin tuna are overfished and at risk. Skipjack tuna is declining, but is the tuna species of least concern.


Providing comprehensive information on labels gives customers the opportunity to make an informed choice based on the product's sustainability. Labels should include the species name, catch method and the area the fish was caught in.

Support for marine reserves and equitable tuna policies

Companies should offer public support for the establishment of marine reserves, including the proposed protected areas known as, the Pacific Commons. This will ensure the long-term sustainability of fish stocks and healthy marine ecosystems. It is equally important that reasonable economic benefits are returned to the countries who own the rights to individual fish stocks.

Use of illegal or unregulated products

Illegal fishing accounts for up to 46% of fishing activity in the Pacific. This is exacerbating the overfishing crisis. Companies must be able to guarantee their supply chain does not include operators that engage in illegal, unregulated or unreported (IUU) fishing.

The information has been obtained from a combination of brand responses to a Greenpeace product survey, correspondence with brands and retailers, publicly available information and product evaluation.

Greenpeace is grateful for the assistance provided by retailers and brand suppliers in providing relevant information as well as for the assistance provided by various third party experts.



Unwanted marine life caught when fishing, such as sharks, turtles and juvenile tuna. Some fishing methods have a higher rate of bycatch than others.

Fish aggregating devices or FADs

Fish and marine life are attracted to these floating objects. Highly destructive particularly when used with purse seine nets.

High sea pockets

Also known as international waters or Pacific Commons, these areas fall outside the jurisdiction of nations and are targeted by illegal vessels. We want them to become marine reserves.

Illegal, unreported, unregulated vessels

They steal fish, which exacerbates the overfishing crisis. Also known as pirate fishing vessels.


Their lines are sometimes hundreds of kilometres long, baited with thousands of hooks. Very destructive.

Marine reserves

Similar to national parks on land, they are areas free from fishing and other activities. Essential to replenish marine ecosystems.

Pole and line

One of the most sustainable methods of catching tuna because each fish is individually caught. Look out for pole and line caught tuna in your supermarket.

Purse seines

Giant nets that encircle schools of fish and then are drawn tight like a drawstring purse. Very destructive when used with FADs (how most tuna is caught), much better when FAD-free.

Skipjack tuna

The healthiest species
of tuna.

Southern bluefin tuna

Critically endangered. Mostly used in sushi.

Albacore tuna

Near-threatened. Better options available.

Yellowfin tuna

Near-threatened and continues to be overfished.

Bigeye tuna