Go fish: is it time to change your tuna?

10th June 2020 | Eativity editors

We love our seafood here in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, we eat less seafood than beef, pork and poultry, but more than lamb. And demand is growing: our consumption of seafood has increased from an estimated 238,968 tonnes in 1998–99 to 341,272 tonnes in 2017–18. And about 50,000 tonnes of that is tuna alone.

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 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 changeyourtuna.org.au, which lists the brands of canned tuna available in order of sustainability and human rights. Or you could consider vegan tuna. Yep! A few enterprising companies are attempting to address our enormous appetite for tuna by developing plant-based tuna alternatives.

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”. 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 – a plant based alternative to freshwater eel, or unagi. The products are only available in restaurants in the US at present.

However, there is another brand of vegan tuna that’s available in Australia now, and it’s called – wait for it – Tuno. It’s made by Atlantic Natural Foods, and 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. It comes in three flavours, and its packaging is suspiciously similar to canned tuna, which has seafood producers up in 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 appealing to you, here are some other ways to ensure you’re choosing more sustainable seafood:

• Buy certified sustainable seafood that has the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) logo on the label.

• Head to GoodFish’s sustainable seafood guide to see the sustainability of different types of fish and other seafood.

• Check out the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation’s annual Australian Fish Stocks Report to find out which species are sustainable and which are declining.

• Support retailers, restaurants and brands that use sustainable seafood species that are caught using fishing methods that minimise environmental impacts.