More Than 80 Percent of Canned Tuna is Unsustainable, Greenpeace Claims


How sustainable are the contents of your tuna fish sandwich?

It’s nothing special, but a tuna salad sandwich is one of the most common and easiest lunches to prepare. But do you know what you’re actually eating? A new Greenpeace study alleges that 80 percent of canned tuna sold in stores is not made with sustainable, responsibly-caught tuna. Not only that, but three of the biggest brands, StarKist, Bumble Bee, and Chicken of the Sea, all of whom list extensive seafood sustainability practices on their websites, are said to be among the worst offenders. But before you throw out the seafood contents of your pantry, the National Fisheries Institute has called the list “non-scientific, non-transparent and completely subjective.”

Eight of the 14 recognized name brand tunas failed Greenpeace’s sustainability test to identify responsibly raised or caught fish, as well as proper human welfare and labor standards. Criteria included whether the fishing method harmed other wildlife, whether shark fins were avoided, and if the companies can trace their products back to a specific area or fisherman. Wild Planet, American Tuna, and Ocean Naturals, all scored highest in Greenpeace’s study.

It should be noted that StarKist, Bumble Bee, and Chicken of the Sea all have listed extensive seafood sustainability practices on their websites. In fact, Bumble Bee is actually a founder of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation and vows to “support global policies and management initiatives that ensure the long-term sustainability of these resources.” Chicken of the Sea, another member of the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation, releases an annual sustainability report, although the latest report is only from 2013. StarKist is also a partner with ISSF.

Starkist declined to comment on the study, and Chicken of the Sea has not yet responded to The Daily Meal’s inquiries. An outside firm audits and evaluates the performance of ISSF members to ensure compliance and in the last audit, Bumble Bee was deemed compliant in 17 out of 17 areas of performance," a representative from Bumble Bee told The Daily Meal. "We adhere to industry-leading sourcing standards, as well as our own set of elevated standards.  This means all our seafood is caught legally and comes from fisheries with healthy and ample stocks or where management actions are in place to return stocks to a sustainable state. All our suppliers comply with global sustainability policies, including the ban on shark finning and fishing methods known to endanger dolphins."

The National Fisheries Institute noted that Greenpeace has refused to join ISSF, and said “The list itself follows the model Greenpeace has used for years: rank companies based on a system for which the scoring methodology is totally arbitrary and hidden, then promote those rankings in the media—rank’n’spank.”  

Here’s what Greenpeace had to say about the biggest brands of tuna:

Starkist: Came in last in sustainability ranking, “Starkist product labels provide no information about the tuna inside their cans. They have been found to source from destructive fisheries that kill tons of marine life.”

Bumble Bee: Came in at 12 out of 14 in the sustainability ranking: “Bumble Bee’s website offers a wealth of information about fisheries but lacks a plan to transition to sustainable sources…. Bumble Bee tuna labels currently do not indicate the common name of the species inside the can, or how and where it was caught.”

Chicken of the Sea: Came in at 11 out of 14 in the sustainability ranking: “Chicken of the Sea has a sustainability commitment on its website including an anti-shark finning policy; however, it fails to address how its products will be truly sustainable. Chicken of the Sea sources its tuna from fishing methods that unnecessarily kill vulnerable marine life….This brand lacks important information on product labels about the origin of its tuna.”


“Consumers should know that popular and trusted canned tuna brands are contributing to ocean destruction at an alarming rate,” said Greenpeace Seafood Markets Lead Graham Forbes. “While the biggest brands have thus far refused to offer sustainable tuna, the silver lining here is that other companies are stepping up to provide ocean safe options for their customers.”