Canadian tuna brands start following international wave of change

Feature story - March 26, 2012
As leaders convene in Guam today to discuss the future of Pacific tuna stocks, Greenpeace Canada’s second annual canned tuna ranking finds some Canadian brands are joining a growing industry transition towards sustainability. Greenpeace gave a passing grade to almost half of the country’s 14 major brands, but the rest did not improve enough to break 50 per cent.


“We have seen some positive change in tuna markets around the world and now we’re seeing Canadian canned tuna brands step up and commit to sourcing tuna more responsibly,” says Sarah King, Greenpeace Canada Oceans Campaign Coordinator. “As more companies look to the future of tuna stocks and see the need to act before it’s too late, others are stuck in the past, ignoring the growing consumer demand for tuna that supports not just human health but ocean health.”

Greenpeace’s 2012 canned tuna ranking assessed and scored companies based on the sustainability and equitability of their tuna procurement policies and practices. With sustainable sourcing policies now in place for 12 of the 14 companies, some notable commitments and sourcing changes occurred.

Canadian Fishing Company—maker of well-known national brand Gold Seal—and major supermarket chain Safeway, shot up the ranks this year after both committed to source 100 per cent of their skipjack tuna from sustainable sources. A trend that has moved through the UK market and is now spreading to other countries, with the latest announcement by a leading Italian company, Mareblu. Ocean Brands—maker of Ocean’s—became the first major national brand to introduce pole and line caught skipjack, a low impact fishing method. Since last year, five companies discontinued the procurement of Redlisted yellowfin tuna for their respective brands.

One company that lags behind due to its failure to drop destructive fishing is Canada’s largest brand: Clover Leaf. Greenpeace began its campaign to change Clover Leaf’s tuna last year. The company had declined to detail its sourcing practices and has refused to abandon the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in purse seine fishing, which results in wasted marine life.

“Clover Leaf has an important choice to make. Will the company drop to the bottom of the stack while its competitors provide customers with greener options?” says King, “Or will Clover Leaf’s CEO stop talking about sustainable tuna and actually deliver it.”

Other laggards include Unico and Pastene, which came in 13th and last place, respectively, with Pastene receiving a score of only four per cent and refusing to engage at all. Raincoast Trading takes first place this year with a high score of 92 per cent. Wild Planet is second at 82 per cent, setting the bar high with sustainability commitments that extend beyond their cans.

Most of the tuna found on Canada's supermarket shelves comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Greenpeace is at this year’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Guam to advocate for: an extended ban on destructive purse seine fishing with FADs; the protection of the high seas areas known as the Pacific Commons; and a reduction in bigeye tuna fishing.

Greenpeace campaigns for a global network of marine reserves and transformation of the global fishing industry, both necessary steps in creating healthy, living oceans.

Take action to urge Canada's largest brand of unsustainable canned tuna, Clover Leaf, to commit to ocean-friendly tuna, today.