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30 Percent Of Canned Tuna Mislabeled

November 24, 2010

According to a new report based on genetic analysis, 30 percent of cannned tunas tested in a dozen countries were mislabeled or had other irregularities.

Some of the 50 brands sampled contained different species of tuna across the same product, or had two different species in the same can.

Some cans labeled as skipjack also had bigeye or yellowtail tuna, both species with declining populations. 

The independent report was timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which is running in Paris through Saturday.

ICCAT’s 48 member states, including the European Union, ensure the sustainability of fisheries in the Atlantic.

“Tuna companies are indiscriminately stuffing multiple species of tuna, including juveniles of species in decline, into cans that shoppers rightfully expect to contain a sustainable product,” Greenpeace International oceans campaigner Nina Thuellen told AFP news.

She said that the mixing of species and inclusion of under-sized tuna from over-fished stocks is mainly due to the use of so-called fish aggregation devices, or FADs.

These man-made floating objects attract the fish in open seas, where they are then caught in huge, curtain-like draw nets.

Endangered species of turtles and sharks also get trapped and die.

Identification and sorting of juveniles is very difficult once the fish are in the freezers.  This results in multiple species in the same can.

“Retailers must act now to immediately shift their business away from cheap tuna caught using FADs,” Thuellen said, adding that the devices should be banned by ICCAT and other regional fisheries management organizations.

The tests analyzed canned tuna products from Austria, Australia, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, Italy, the U.S., Britain, Switzerland and Germany.

At least five brands were tested in each of those countries, totaling 165 different products.

Five main species of tuna make up the annual worldwide catch of 4.0 to 4.5 million tons.

Skipjack tuna, which reigns in the Indian and Pacific oceans, accounts for 60 percent of the total.

Yellowfin or bigeye comprises of 24 and 10 percent of the global tuna market. 

Thunnus alalunga, which is better known as albacore, follows with five percent, while Atlantic Bluefin is less than one percent.

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