Shop Fish Sustainably: Tuna

March 28, 2013

Love tuna but looking out for the environment as well. Here are tips for shopping for tuna, what to choose and what to avoid

With the recent $1.76 million sale of a single bluefin tuna in Tokyo, we are reminded to be mindful when shopping for fish – specifically tuna. Bluefin tuna are top predators that live for over 20 years and are slow to mature; many fisheries are catching young bluefin tuna (due to their value) that haven't had a chance to reproduce - thus stocks are greatly reduced.
According to Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, by the ‘80s, fishing practices had made it impossible for natural fish stocks to keep up. Currently, seventy percent of the world's fisheries are now exploited, overexploited, or have collapsed - but demand has continued to rise… over eight times what it was in the 50s. And by 2030, it’s estimated that the world will need an additional 37 million tons of farmed fish per year to keep up with current levels of consumption.
SupermarketGuru wants to remind you that overfishing issues are not just for future generations; they are very real problems threatening the health of our oceans today. Making conscious decisions when eating out or shopping in the market can have a huge impact. Tuna is America’s favorite fish – with the many available varieties, choosing the right one can get tricky, here are some tips:
The best, most sustainable choice is American albacore tuna. This delicious big fish is caught during the summer months when vessels find their way to the tuna fields; fishing only during daylight hours. Some of the catch is frozen immediately on board and the rest is landed as fresh. The white tuna meat ends up in cans, as smoked products, or fresh at your supermarket’s fish counter.

Avoid bluefin tuna! Heavy consumption by the Japanese created such a demand that commercial fisheries created more efficient methods of fishing, including using airplanes to find bluefin tuna from overhead! The stock population of bluefin has declined by 75 percent during the last decade. Whether you're at your favorite sushi restaurant or local supermarket, choose another type of tuna in order to protect and allow bluefin to have the opportunity to grow again. Bluefin is also know as hon maguro, kuromaguro or toro (tuna belly) when it is prepared for sushi.

Big-eye and yellow-fin tuna have become very popular choices especially because of the rise in popularity of sushi. These types of tuna are found in warmer waters all over the world and are caught in many different ways. Industrialization of fishing has made it fairly easy to find tuna stocks - thus disrupting the ecosystem. In some cases these tuna species are caught by pole and line, which is the best, and most traditional, way to fish sustainably. Pole and line fishing protects coral and also limits by-catch of other species. If you cannot resist choosing yellow-fin or big-eye tuna, ask for pole and line.
For more information on sustainable choices in seafood visit the Marine Stewardship CouncilMonterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, or download the Seafood Watch Pocket Guide to know what's sustainable on the go.