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What Does the Information on Canned Tuna Labels Mean

By Alba Charles . Updated: January 20, 2017
What Does the Information on Canned Tuna Labels Mean

We consume a lot of canned tuna in sandwiches, pasta and other dishes. But the truth is that tuna species are endangered and some, like the bluefin tuna, are even in the brink of extinction.

For this reason it is very important to know where the tuna we're consuming inside the cans comes from and how it has been caught, as these factors highly affect the sustainability of the seas and tuna populations. However, sometimes people don't understand what the information on canned tuna labels mean and therefore are not able to know if the tuna they're buying is sustainable or not. In this OneHowTo article we explain you what the information on canned tuna labels means.

The next time you go to the supermarket check the labels so you'll buy the most environmental-friendly choice of canned tuna.

You may also be interested in: Why are Bluefin Tuna Endangered

White Tuna - Light Tuna

This label refers to the species of tuna inside the can.

  • White tuna: refers mainly to albacore. This species usually contains higher level of mercury, given that it is a bigger tuna species and therefore eats more fish that might contain mercury. Better avoid cans that contain white tuna.
  • Light tuna: refers to smaller tuna species such as skipjack, tongol and sometimes yellowtail. These are better than white tuna not only because they don't contain mercury but also because they're smaller fish that reproduce faster, so the populations don't drop.
What Does the Information on Canned Tuna Labels Mean - White Tuna - Light Tuna

Solid - Chunk

This refers to how the tuna is packaged inside the can. Solid means that the tuna comes in bigger pieces and often comes from a single piece. Chunk, on the contrary, contains smaller pieces that can vary in sice.

Fishing methods

The method used to catch the tuna inside the can should be written on the label. This information ensures that the fish have been caught responsibly not affecting the populations of tuna and other species.

  • Pole and line: This finishing method catches the fish one by one. It's very selective and doesn't have impact on other marine species. It reduces the amount of bycatch, i.e. catching other species.
  • Purse seines: This method uses a large net that encircles a school of fish which are drawn tight.
  • Wild caught: The fish were caught in the ocean and not farmed
  • FAD-free: The tuna was caught without using fish aggregating devices (FAD). This devices usually trap other animal species too.
  • Dolphin safe/friendly: This indicates that the tuna were caught using methods that do not harm dolphins or in places where tuna don't swim. However, this does not ensure that the method used does not catch other animals.
  • MSC: The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a certification scheme awarded to wild fisheries. The ones that achieve this certification meet various sustainability criteria, so the tuna inside the can has been caught responsibly without damaging tuna or other animal populations. You can see it in a white and blue logo.

If you can't find the information on the fishing methods on your tuna can, it is more likely that it's not sustainable. Try to always buy tuna that has the fishing method stated on the label.

What Does the Information on Canned Tuna Labels Mean - Fishing methods

Which tuna should we buy?

You should always buy light tuna that has been caught using selective methods such as pole and line. This ensures that the tuna you're eating doesn't contain mercury, it will reproduce faster and ensure the populations and at the same time has been caught using responsible methods that haven't harmed other animals.

You should never consume bluefin tuna, although this species is usually never found in cans. Bluefin tuna populations are plummeting drastically, so it's important to stop consuming it.

If you want to read similar articles to What Does the Information on Canned Tuna Labels Mean, we recommend you visit our Food & drink category.

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