Go fish: is it time to change your tuna?
We Aussies love our seafood. According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, we eat less seafood than beef, pork or poultry, but more than lamb. And demand is up. Our seafood consumption has increased from 238,968 tonnes in 1998–99 to 341,272 tonnes in 2017–18. About 50,000 tonnes of that is tuna.
Canned tuna is something you’ll see in pretty much every lunchroom and kitchen cupboard across the country. Most Aussies eat at least one can a week. But the problem with canned tuna is that it can be hard to know if it’s been caught using sustainable fishing methods or if it’s made with an overfished species. And the majority of canned tuna sold in Australia comes from Thailand, which has a pretty scary human rights record. Some reports have linked the Thai seafood industry with slavery and human trafficking.
Yikes. So what to do? You could check out this guide, which lists the brands of canned tuna you should avoid and which are more sustainable. Or you could consider trying vegan tuna. Yep! A few enterprising companies are attempting to address our enormous appetite for tuna by developing plant-based tuna alternatives.
Seafood without sacrifice
Good Catch Foods has developed a plant-based tuna made from a legume blend and algae oil. It has the same seafoody flavour and flaky texture of tuna, without the impact on our oceans. The company calls it “seafood without sacrifice”. However, no product launch date is planned for Australia at this stage. But the product is available in the US and UK, so it shouldn’t be long before it makes its way here.
Ocean Hugger Foods has also created an interesting vegan tuna product. Ahimi is a plant-based alternative to raw tuna made from tomatoes, gluten-free soy sauce, sugar, water and sesame oil. They also make Unami. It’s a plant-based alternative to freshwater eel, or unagi. Currently, the products are only available in restaurants in the US.
There is another brand of vegan tuna that is available in Australia, and it’s called – wait for it – Tuno. Made by Atlantic Natural Foods, you can find it at Coles and Woolworths, or buy it on Amazon. Tuno is made with non-GMO plant-based proteins. It’s low in fat, contains no cholesterol and offers a natural source of omega-3s. Its packaging is also suspiciously similar to canned tuna, which has seafood producers up in arms. Seafood Industry Australia chief executive Jane Lovell has called it a “slap in the face” for the industry.
If plant-based tuna doesn’t sound so appealing to you, below are some other ways to ensure you’re choosing more sustainable seafood.
1. Buy certified sustainable seafood that has the Marine Stewardship Council or Aquaculture Stewardship Council logo on the label.
2. Head to GoodFish’s sustainable seafood guide. It shows you the sustainability of different types of fish as well as other seafood.
3. Check out the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation’s annual Australian Fish Stocks Report. This lists which species are sustainable as well as which are declining.
4. Support retailers, restaurants and brands that use sustainable seafood species. These are caught via fishing methods that minimise environmental impacts.