TASTE
04/18/2017 10:19 am ET | Updated Apr 18, 2017

The Best And Worst Cans Of Tuna, Based On Sustainability

Not every can is created equal.

We hate to tell you this, but you’re probably picking the wrong can of tuna. Buying a canned tuna isn’t just about deciding between water or oil packed, dark or light meat, expensive or cheap. There’s a lot more that goes into a can.

We’re talking fishing practices, traceability of the fish back to the sea, and knowing if these fishing companies are violating human rights in their labor practices ― this does happen, unfortunately. 

Here’s the really bad news: a lot of the big brands are guilty of all the above. Greenpeace has spent months ranking 20 common canned tuna options and they found that the big three ― StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea ― are once again at the bottom of the ranks.

David Pinsky from Greenpeace explained to HuffPost how they go about ranking the cans. “The tuna brands are evaluated on sustainability, social responsibility, auditing, transparency with their labeling and information they provide consumers. That’s all reflected in a survey with supporting documentation to ensure that the information they provide is accurate ―  and in addition to filling out the survey we often have a dialogue back and forth with the companies over a series of months to ensure the accuracy of the information.” Guys, it’s thorough.

Greenpeace first put together a canned tuna guide in 2015, but the industry has changed. “In the past two years we’ve seen many U.S. retailers take strides toward selling more responsibly-caught canned tuna,” explained Pinsky. “We’ve seen public commitments from some big names including Whole Foods which recently released a new canned tuna commitment to supply 100 percent sustainable canned tuna in stores by 2018. We’ve seen that growing wave of momentum within the retail sector.” 

This is good news for all you tuna lovers out there. Just because the top three doesn’t meet the Greenpeace standard, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your tuna melt. Greenpeace not only scored the worst, but highlighted the best canned tuna on the market too.

Here they are, in order of absolute worst to the very best. We’ve included an excerpt of Greenpeace’s explanations for each brand’s rank below, but for the complete scope head on over to Greenpeace.

  • 20 WORST: Starkist
    Starkist
    DID NOT RESPOND 

    VERDICT: "Failed again! StarKist continues its trend of ocean destruction.-  

    Ocean Safe Products: None. 

    "StarKist is not transparent about the origins of its tuna and refused, yet again, to provide Greenpeace with meaningful information about its operations. StarKist -- owned by global seafood giant, Dongwon -- has the largest market share of any canned tuna brand in the U.S. Scraping the bottom of the tuna guide for a second time, StarKist’s failure to take sustainability seriously is devastating the oceans -- all while it continues to sell cheap and dirty tuna nationwide. It is not only the lowest-ranked brand, but along with other failing brands, it’s dragging down the industry. StarKist must work to ensure healthy oceans, or the day may come when Charlie the Tuna is no more."
  • 19 Hill Country Fare
    Hill Country Fare
    DID NOT RESPOND 

    VERDICT: A big fail for the oceans, consumer confidence, and H-E-B’s brand. 

    Ocean Safe Products: None. 

    "H-E-B product labels provide no information about the tuna inside cans. H-E-B is not transparent about the origins of its tuna and never replied to Greenpeace’s multiple inquiries to complete the tuna guide survey.  So much for Texas pride. San Antonio-based H-E-B failed big time. From vague policies to scant public information and failing to participate in Greenpeace’s evaluation process, it begs the question: what does H-E-B have to hide? H-E-B used to be transparent about its initiatives, and then something happened. It’s unclear how H-E-B is addressing destructive fishing, illegal fishing, and rampant human rights abuses in the seafood industry. If you’re looking for responsibly-caught canned tuna, visit Whole Foods -- another Texas-based chain that is actually offering its customers better options."
  • 18 Walmart's Great Value
    Walmart
    DID NOT RESPOND 

    VERDICT: Great Value is anything but great for sharks and turtles. Avoid any Walmart brand canned tuna. 

    Ocean Safe Products: None. 

    "Walmart is the world’s largest retailer and sells about one out of every four cans of tuna in the U.S. Rather than lead, Walmart’s chosen to drown in a sea of dirty tuna. Walmart continues to fail, refusing to clean up its destructive Great Value brand canned tuna. Subject of a Greenpeace campaign and faced with human rights abuse scandals linked to its seafood supply chains, Walmart continues to issue empty promises while selling customers destructive and potentially unethical canned tuna. Don’t believe the greenwashing. Any customer that cares about sustainability and human rights should shop elsewhere for tuna, period."
  • 17 Bumble Bee
    Bumble Bee
    DID NOT RESPOND 

    VERDICT: Cute bee, bad tuna. For the love of the oceans, avoid this brand and its greenwashing.  

    Ocean Safe Products: Wild Selections brand “light tuna.” 

    "Bumble Bee Foods, North America’s largest shelf stable seafood company, occupies over a quarter of the U.S. canned tuna market. Unfortunately, it’s not using its market power to demonstrably help the oceans or seafood workers. Bumble Bee needs to stop talking about sustainability and act to put responsibly-caught tuna in its flagship brand’s cans. Its traceability website is great on transparency, but it would be so much better if  its tuna traced back to sustainable fisheries. By introducing its Wild Selection brand, Bumble Bee is providing products for customers seeking responsibly-caught tuna. Now it’s time to cut the greenwashing claims with its Bumble Bee brand and provide better options."
  • 16 Trader Joe's Skipjack Tuna
    Trader Joes
    VERDICT: Some good options, but this popular retailer’s lack of progress spells trouble for the oceans.  

    Ocean Safe Products: Trader Joe’s brand skipjack tuna.  

    "Trader Joe’s operates hundreds of stores nationwide. The retailer’s previously taken action to improve its canned tuna, but years later it appears to have stalled out. Trader Joe’s is not winning at transparency, with no clear policy anywhere that outlines its tuna sourcing requirements. Trader Joe’s must ensure that all products, including its own brand albacore tuna products, are responsibly-caught. Trader Joe’s has shown before that it can take leadership to protect the oceans. The time has come (again) to prove it."
  • 15 Chicken of the Sea
    Chicken of the Sea
    DID NOT RESPOND VERDICT: Bold claims by its parent company, but no improvements for Chicken of the Sea cans.  

    Ocean Safe Products: None. 

    "Chicken of the Sea — owned by Thai Union, the world’s largest tuna company — is the third largest U.S. tuna brand. Greenpeace is campaigning for Thai Union to end its reliance on destructive tuna fisheries. While Chicken of the Sea claims it’s dedicated to sustainable products, it doesn’t offer a single one in the U.S. As Thai Union works to strengthen its sourcing requirements, it could lead the U.S. market if Chicken of the Sea became the first big national brand to sell responsibly-caught tuna. Until then, relying on transshipment at sea, sourcing from purse seines employing FADs that kill threatened species like sharks, and being unclear about the health of the tuna stocks it sources from means one thing: the oceans and seafood workers are still put at risk to fill this brand’s cans."
  • 14 Supervalu's Wild Harvest Tuna
    Wild Harvest
    VERDICT: This Tuna Guide newcomer is on the cusp of big improvements.  

    Ocean Safe Products: Wild Harvest pole and line albacore. Avoid the rest.  

    "This is SUPERVALU’s Tuna Guide debut. While the retailer did not receive a passing score, its efforts to clean up its own brand tuna are not going unnoticed. In addition to offering customers responsibly-caught pole and line albacore, SUPERVALU appears open to improving its canned tuna. This is positive news for the oceans, seafood workers, and customers. If SUPERVALU stays on track, it will most certainly improve its ranking."
  • 13 Kirkland Tuna
    Kirkland
    VERDICT: Kirkland customers beware, you may need to seek better canned tuna elsewhere. 

    Ocean Safe Products: None. 

    "Costco Wholesale Corporation is a membership-based warehouse club, and the third largest retail chain in the U.S. Costco made waves in 2014 with its FAD-free Kirkland Signature skipjack tuna, but since then this popular retailer is tanking on its tuna commitments. Costco needs to get serious about offering Kirkland Signature customers responsibly-caught tuna and ensure that it’s available on Costco’s giant store shelves nationwide. Until then, unless it’s a sustainable national brand like Wild Planet, you just can’t trust the canned tuna at Costco."
  • 12 Simply Balanced
    Simply Balanced
    VERDICT: Simply Balanced is the only safe bet—avoid the rest. 

    Ocean Safe Products: Simply Balanced brand skipjack and albacore. 

    "While Target made progress when it launched its Simply Balanced brand, since then it’s failed to significantly improve. Target led U.S. retailers by banning farmed salmon in its stores — where is that same level of leadership on responsible canned tuna? It’s time for Target to swim away from its sea of ocean destruction and commit to offering responsibly-caught tuna."
  • 11 Kroger
    Kroger
    VERDICT: Big changes underway for one of the country’s largest retailers.  

    Ocean Safe Products: Look for responsibly-caught Kroger brand pole and line products, coming soon. 

    "Kroger relies on third party labels and industry-friendly standards to inform its tuna purchasing. It does not yet have a comprehensive canned tuna policy covering sustainability and social responsibility. Kroger is the largest traditional U.S. grocery chain and could be a powerful force to help improve ocean health. In a sea change from the last tuna guide, Kroger fully participated in the survey process. This demonstrates increased transparency and an openness to improve its canned tuna. Kroger is launching new responsibly-caught products and new product labels with more information about the tuna inside cans. Kroger can continue to build momentum by developing a strong, public procurement policy that ensures all of its own brand tuna is responsibly-caught. This would also signal to big brands like Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee, and StarKist: shape up or get off store shelves."
  • 10 Ahold Delhaize's Nature's Promise
    Natures Promise
    VERDICT: There’s promise for this retailer if it jumps on board with responsibly-caught canned tuna.  

    Ocean Safe Products: Nature’s Promise skipjack and albacore. Avoid the rest.  

    "Ahold Delhaize has strong social responsibility standards; however, it needs a time-bound public policy that informs its customers as to how it will offer responsible tuna. Its larger Food Lion brand canned tuna is sourced from destructive fishing methods like purse seines using FADs and conventional longlines. Ahold Delhaize must improve its process to verify suppliers’ claims and lead U.S. retailers by removing transshipment at sea from its operations.

    While this newer company offers pole and line caught tuna under its Nature’s Promise brand, it still sells large amounts of destructively caught tuna. Change could be on the horizon. This would be welcome news for the oceans, seafood workers, and customers seeking responsibly-caught tuna."
  • 9 Aldi's Northern Catch
    Northern Catch
    VERDICT: One of the latest retailers to offer responsibly-caught canned tuna. 

    Ocean Safe Products: Northern Catch FAD-free and pole and line skipjack.   

    "Discount retailer ALDI is moving into a leadership role on responsibly-caught tuna, through its tuna commitments and introduction of FAD-free and pole and line caught Northern Catch skipjack tuna. ALDI would perform much better in the Tuna Guide if it increased its supply chain transparency. ALDI’s challenge is to maintain its course and improve its commitments to sustainable seafood and social responsibility. If it does, customers seeking accessible, responsibly-caught tuna may soon start flocking to ALDI instead of its competitors."
  • 8 Albertson's Open Nature
    Open Nature
    VERDICT: Some good options, but Albertsons has much more work to do. 

    Ocean Safe Products: Open Nature brand skipjack and albacore -- avoid the rest. 

    "Following Albertsons’ acquisition of Safeway, the recently merged company is the fourth largest grocery retailer in the U.S. As a major seller of canned tuna, it’s encouraging that Albertsons is getting serious about improving its seafood sustainability. To hold a leadership position in the U.S. market, Albertson's must transition away from destructively caught tuna, strengthen its social responsibility commitments specific to tuna, and continue to improve its traceability systems."
  • 7 Nature's Basket Canned Tuna
    Natures Basket
    VERDICT: A good pole and line option, though there’s more work to do.  

    Ocean Safe Products: Nature’s Basket brand pole and line albacore.  

    "While customers can trust its Nature’s Basket pole and line caught albacore tuna, its Giant Eagle brand tuna is still caught using destructive fishing methods. Giant Eagle can improve by ensuring that any of its own brand canned tuna is responsibly-sourced and by publicly stating how it will ensure its tuna adheres to strict social responsibility standards."
  • 6 Wegman's Pole And Line Canned Tuna
    Wegmans
    VERDICT: A retailer driven to make a difference and it shows.  

    Ocean Safe Products: Look for Wegmans brand pole and line canned tuna, coming soon.  

    "Founded by the Wegman family, this retailer takes pride in offering its customers quality products. Its seafood team has worked hard for years to offer more sustainable seafood. This is welcome news for customers committed to protecting the oceans and workers’ rights, and sends a message to big tuna brands that it’s time to lead too. If Wegmans works to ensure that its own brand tuna is responsibly-caught, increases information available to customers, and prioritizes its social standards, this Rochester-based retailer will be well on its way to the green category."
  • 5 Hy-vee
    Hyvee
    VERDICT: Some better options on shelves, with improvements ahead.  

    Ocean Safe Products: Hy-Vee Select “Responsible Choice” skipjack and albacore.

    "Ocean lovers rejoice: this retailer is serious about sustainable seafood. It even has a blog featuring seafood sustainability. Hy-Vee will likely move into the green category as it implements its sustainable tuna commitments and addresses key social responsibility issues that protect workers’ rights. Based on its leadership thus far, expect big changes ahead."
  • 4 Ocean Naturals
    Ocean Naturals
    VERDICT: Global tuna company Tri Marine provides responsibly-caught tuna.  

    Ocean Safe Products: All Ocean Naturals brand canned tuna. 

    "Ocean Naturals is owned by Tri Marine—one of the largest tuna traders in the world. When introduced a few years ago, this responsibly-caught brand offered a clear alternative to destructive national brands. The closing of Tri Marine’s American Samoa processing plant leaves questions about the future and direction of Ocean Naturals. Tri Marine must continue to help lead the industry in the right direction and use its clout to ensure that more responsibly-caught tuna replaces destructive tuna lining supermarket shelves."
  • 3 Whole Foods Market 365 Canned Tuna
    365
    VERDICT: This guide’s top-ranked U.S. retailer has a commitment to sell only responsibly-caught canned tuna by early 2018. 

    Ocean Safe Products: All 365 Everyday Value brand skipjack and albacore. 

    "All 365 Everyday Value tuna is pole and line caught—a fishing method with minimal impacts on other marine life. 365 Everyday Value tuna products indicate the species and catch method on labels. Whole Foods is the first and only U.S. retailer with a commitment to sell only pole and line, handline, or troll caught canned tuna. By early 2018, any canned tuna sold in Whole Foods will be responsibly-caught. Whole Foods will feature more information online and in stores to inform customers about sustainable tuna. Whole Foods has strong traceability systems to ensure that its tuna is responsibly sourced.  Whole Foods has worked for years to provide more sustainable seafood for customers in its fresh and frozen departments. In March 2017, Whole Foods made history as the first U.S. retailer to commit to selling 100% sustainable canned tuna and upholding strong labor standards. Soon, any canned tuna on store shelves will be sourced from best practice fishing methods like pole and line, handline, or troll. These catch methods benefit small-scale fisheries and significantly reduce the likelihood of human rights violations. This commitment sets the bar for other retailers to follow and sends a strong message to failing tuna brands that their time of ocean destruction is coming to an end."
  • 2 TIED FOR BEST: American Tuna
    American Tuna
    VERDICT: A trusted sustainable tuna brand and pole and line tuna advocate. 

    Ocean Safe Products: All American Tuna and Pole & Line brand canned tuna. 

    "American Tuna is a San Diego-based company founded by six pole and line fishing families. American Tuna works to connect pole and line fishers, and supports the development of more sustainable and socially responsible fisheries. While American Tuna customers have trusted the brand as a more responsible choice when it comes to ocean protection, the company’s move to solidify its eco-practices with a public policy is significant. This increased American Tuna’s rank this year to tie for first place in the tuna guide."
  • 1 TIED FOR BEST: Wild Planet
    Wild Planet
    VERDICT: An eco-brand dedicated to greening store shelves and driving industry change. 

    Ocean Safe Products: All Wild Planet & Sustainable Seas brand canned tuna.  

    "Wild Planet Foods is a company dedicated to providing sustainable tuna products. Its Wild Planet and Sustainable Seas brands are found in stores nationwide and its market presence is growing with increased demand for responsibly-caught tuna. Since the last Tuna Guide, Wild Planet updated its procurement policy, strengthening it even further to state its commitment to social responsibility. Wild Planet’s top rank is a reflection of its continued efforts to improve its operations and the larger industry."

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