Environment: More tuna dramas


BACK in mid-2010 we ran a piece looking at the results of Greenpeace Australia’s initial rating of 10 brands canned tuna based on fishing methods, sustainability, labelling and support for marine reserves. Greenseas and Coles came first and second, largely because they used skipjack (striped) tuna rather than bluefin, yellowfin or bigeye, considered to be overfished in some parts of the world. Greanseas edged out Coles for first place as it supported research and tuna sustainability.

What a difference a few years makes. In the latest ratings, released in April 2017, Greenseas has dropped from first place to tenth, that is last. What went wrong?

Despite being the first big company to commit to go FAD-free in its harvesting, it’s now the only one that hasn’t delivered. It announced in 2012 it would source only FAD-free tuna by 2015, but since then Greenseas’ owner, Heinz, has merged with the US multinational Kraft to form Kraft Heinz.

Kraft Heinz claims it ran into “supply issues”, which meant it needed to continue to source FAD-sourced fish. Greenpeace then called on supermarket giant Woolworths to stop stocking Greenseas tuna, and was backed by a social media/email campaign. Woolworths re-stated its commitment to dealing with suppliers that comply with relevant laws and support ethical standards. Kraft Heinz then promised that all their orders for tuna post July 1 would be FAD-free. Greenpeace remained sceptical, given that the company missed its 2015 promised target.

Companies that responded positively to earlier criticisms and initial lowly positions on the rating list moved up. For example, Sirena went from last in 2010 to fifth currently after positive changes to its harvest activities. Sol Mare, which has no publicly available sustainability policy, still sits at second last.

How much these rankings affect overall sales of particular brands is hard to tell, but there is clearly enough interest by companies such as Sirena and Kraft Heinz to actually change their corporate behaviours, or at least promise to do so, in the face of the publicity and social media campaigns that result.

Here in Australia our big tuna canneries are long gone. But we still consume fresh southern bluefin, albacore, bigeye and yellowfin tuna from our “sustainable, well-managed fishery”, as AFMA reminded us on May 2, the inaugural World Tuna Day –  the United Nations General Assembly’s endorsed day of world-wide celebration of these global species.



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