Changing Tuna

Greenpeace has worked for years to hold major buyers and sellers of seafood accountable for the massive amount of marine life they suck from our oceans. We’ve highlighted the environmental impacts and the social impacts of numerous fisheries and aquaculture operations globally, and in Canada we’ve worked to get Canada’s biggest supermarket chains to change the way they source their products containing sea life from all corners of our blue planet.

Some of the most popular species sold in supermarkets in Canada are also some of the most overfished and come from extremely destructive fisheries. Tuna is one of these species - one of the world's favourite fish and a staple in many Canadian households. As a top predator in marine food chains, tuna holds a unique place in ocean ecosystems. Tuna also provides a critical source of protein for millions of people across the globe. But growing demand is threatening the survival of tuna and other marine animals impacted by destructive tuna fishing practices. The tuna sector is a poster child for the problems plaguing the wider seafood industry. That’s why Greenpeace has campaigned around the world to transform the tuna fishing industry, and this includes pushing companies in Canada to change who and where they buy tuna from.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), of the fish most commonly found in cans (yellowfin, skipjack, albacore and bigeye), bigeye is listed as vulnerable and yellowfin and albacore are listed as near threatened. Vulnerable species could face global extinction and near threatened species are close to the threatened threshold or would be threatened without ongoing conservation measures.

Tuna populations are also threatened by a destructive fishing method used mainly to catch skipjack‒the most abundant tuna species. Purse seine fleets often set giant nets around floating objects known as Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). FADs are placed in the open ocean to attract tuna. They not only attract adult tuna, but baby bigeye and yellowfin, which places more pressure on these populations. FAD use also kills more than just tuna, like sharks, billfish, turtles and other marine life.

Longlining, the other most common way to catch tuna, is an indiscriminate method that sets thousands of baited hooks in the ocean. Like purse seines employing FADs, take a huge toll on marine life like sharks, turtles, seabirds and other species. Longline vessels are also regularly implicated in the devastating practice of shark finning.

Longline vessels also often stay out to sea for many months or even years at a time, creating the breeding grounds for illegal activity and labour abuses. Transshipment, the practice that allows longliners to offload their catch and restock supplies at sea off the radar, fuels deplorable practices.

There is a solution. Greenpeace is working to transform industrial tuna fishing from the markets to the regional management bodies and back to the water. Major change is happening with the recent announcement by the world’s largest tuna fishing company, Thai Union, that it will make big changes to its global supply chains. More and more brands offering better options for their consumers and working to clean up their supply chains. Greenpeace will continue to hold companies accountable, alongside many other organizations that are working for a more sustainable and socially responsible fishing industry.

Consult the latest Canned Tuna Sustainability Ranking for information on the sourcing policies and practices of well-known brands.

Consult Greenpeace’s Tuna Guide for Healthier Oceans for a shopping guide that rates over a hundred products sold across Canada.

How Greenpeace works to ensure tuna for tomorrow

Challenging the marketplace: We urge companies to adopt a strong tuna procurement policy. We demaind that they commit to sourcing from sustainable fishing methods like pole and line and FAD-free purse seining. We also ask companies to support marine protection by not sourcing tuna from proposed marine reserve areas like the Pacific Commons of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Each year, we evaluate and rank 14 of the major brands on their performance on reducing their tuna footprint.

Working with change-makers: Greenpeace works with progressive coastal nations and companies to reclaim their fisheries, move to more sustainable fishing methods to protect livelihoods and tuna at the same time.

Informing consumers: Ignorance isn’t always bliss. We reach out to consumers and the public to help educate them through on-the-ground awareness activities, published reports, online engagement, and invite them to use their voices for positive change. 

Pressuring global governments: We lobby member countries of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) in charge of managing tuna to reduce the amount of tuna caught, combat illegal fishing, adopt precautionary and ecosystem-based management measures, and to ban the use of destructive fishing gear like the FADs used in purse seining.

Expose ocean destroyers: With Greenpeace’s ships and ability to be present on the water, we are able to witness and provide first-hand accounts and images of wasteful, and often illegal, practices at sea.

The latest updates


Canadian supermarkets move one step closer to ocean protection: Greenpeace

Feature story | June 2, 2010 at 11:00

(Montreal and Vancouver) — Canada’s major supermarket chains have begun to rid their shelves of Redlist species and adopt sustainable seafood procurement policies, but need to do much more to help protect the oceans, according to a new Greenpeace...

Supermarkets taking steps to rid shelves of Redlist fish

Feature story | April 8, 2010 at 17:07

Greenpeace’s campaign to convince Canada’s supermarket chains to remove Redlist fish from their shelves is having results.

Greenpeace challenges closed-door meeting of Arctic “petroleum club”

Feature story | March 29, 2010 at 16:36

As five foreign ministers hole up in the Gatineau Hills today to divide the resources beneath the Arctic Ocean, Greenpeace calls on them to provide a much more transparent process for discussing the need for greater protection for the fragile...

US Retailer No Longer Traitor to the Oceans!

Blog entry by Sarah King | March 29, 2010 4 comments

TRADER JOES ANNOUNCES NEW PLAN TO SELL ONLY SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD BY 2012 Retailer removes red list species from shelves, calls for marine reserves March 27, 2010 WASHINGTON, DC—After enduring months of campaigning from...


Blog entry by Sarah King | March 28, 2010 2 comments

The UN marked 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, but you wouldn’t know it by the recent activity of our world governments. It’s like they misread the memo…..'oh we’re suppose to wipe out as many species as possible this year...

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