Greenpeace genetic tinned tuna tests reveals trail of fishy secrets

Press release - 23 November, 2010
The first independent, public genetic tests into the contents of popular tinned tuna brands from twelve countries have uncovered evidence of the tuna industry’s complete disregard for both consumers and the future sustainability of tuna stocks said Greenpeace today [1].

The tests, carried out by Spanish marine research laboratory AZTI Tecnalia [2], analysed canned tuna products from Austria, Australia, Greece, Netherlands, NZ, Canada, Spain, Italy, US, UK, Switzerland and Germany, testing at least five different tuna brands from each country. Numerous notable inconsistencies were discovered [3], including several instances of two different species appearing in the same tin – an illegal practice in the EU [4], erratic inclusion of different species in various tins of the same product, while other tins contained species that differed to what was claimed on the label, including species being overfished such as bigeye and yellowfin tuna [5].  

“The tinned tuna industry is not only hoodwinking both consumers and retailers about the tinned tuna that lands in shopping baskets worldwide, it’s making them complicit in a trail of destruction”, said Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Nina Thuellen. “Tuna companies are indiscriminately stuffing multiple species of tuna, including juveniles of species in decline, into tins that shoppers rightfully expect to contain a sustainable product.  Retailers must act now to immediately shift their business away from cheap tuna caught using FADs with purse seine nets and source from pole and line or FAD-free purse seined tuna instead”.

Greenpeace has identified the use of FADs (fish aggregation devices), as the main factor for both the mixing of species and the inclusion of juvenile tuna of species being overfished. Employed in combination with purse seine nets, FADs are manmade floating objects that attract not only juvenile tuna, but also turtles and endangered and vulnerable sharks species such as whale and silky sharks, which are regularly netted as bycatch. Once in the freezers, identification and sorting of juveniles is regarded as very difficult, resulting in species being mixed in the tinning process.

“By using fish aggregation devices in purse seining and removing juvenile tuna from the oceans, the tuna industry is driving the future collapse of tuna stocks, along with its own demise,” continued Thuellen. “FADs are at the root of an unsustainable industry, driving the overfishing of tuna populations, and hindering the recovery of species like bigeye and yellowfin. Greenpeace is calling on regional tuna management organisations to enact an immediate global ban on fish aggregation devices, if we are to have any hope for the future sustainability of tuna”.

Greenpeace is calling on politicians take the opportunity to ban FADs at the West and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission [6] meeting in Hawaii on December 6th, where further measures to rescue the regions’ declining bigeye tuna stocks will be discussed.

The full results of the genetic testing into tinned tuna are available for download, as well as a detailed briefing on fish aggregation devices. Greenpeace is campaigning for sustainable fisheries and a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans as necessary steps to restoring the world’s oceans to health.

Nina Thuellen, Greenpeace International oceans campaigner (in Vienna), +43 664 548 4553
Dave Walsh, Greenpeace International communications (in Amsterdam), +31 6 4619 7327,

For photo, contact the Greenpeace International photo desk at +31 629 001 152 and for video, contact the Greenpeace International video desk at +31 646 197 322

 (1,2. A detailed briefing paper on the tests and results, along a list of the brands tested and a report from the testing laboratory AZTI Tecnalia, can be found at
A minimum of five different products from each country was tested, and for each product, tests were usually run on three different cans from the same batch or from different batches. In total, products from 50 tuna brands were tested (see Annex 1 of briefing paper for lists of brands) with a total 165 products were tested.

Analytical results performed by AZTI-Tecnalia under its patented method for discrimination of Thunuus obesus and Thunnus albacares. AZTI has not participated on the sample collection and the design of the experiment and is not responsible for the use of the results delivered, or any information derived from its analysis and interpretation.

3. Annex 2 of the Briefing Paper on the tests lists all of the testing results that showed inconsistencies in tuna tin contents. The full report from the independent laboratory with all results can be downloaded from
4. Mixing tuna species in one tin is an act of fraud in the EU. More information in the briefing paper at
 5. Yellowfin tuna is found throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical seas except in the Mediterranean.  All four stocks are known to be declining, they are all being fished at a high rate, and overfishing is occurring.
Bigeye tuna is a tropical and subtropical species found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. All stocks of bigeye tuna are in a long-term decline. All stocks except the Atlantic stock are considered overfished, and catches of juvenile bigeye in purse seine FAD fisheries is a major problem for stock recovery.
6. 7th Regular Session Of The Commission, Honolulu, Hawaii, 6th December 2010