‘Vote with your fork’: Choose wild-caught tuna with the blue fish tick

Plates of delicious tuna. Photo by Millstream Media.

This World Tuna Day (2 May), Tuna Australia is calling on all Australians to ‘vote with their forks’ for sustainable seafood.

“We encourage all consumers to choose tuna and swordfish labelled with a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, also known as the blue fish tick,” said Tuna Australia CEO David Ellis.

The blue fish tick can be found on albacore, bigeye and yellowfin tuna and swordfish caught from the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF), one of Australia’s largest fisheries.

“The MSC certification is the gold standard for sustainability, so consumers can be assured that they are eating fresh tuna caught from a fishery managed to world-class standards,” said Ellis.

“Wild-caught tuna is also full of omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients needed for good health, making it a nutritious and tasty addition to any meal.”

A stamp of approval

The MSC certification was awarded to Tuna Australia in August 2020, made possible by support from the Australian Government’s Our Marine Parks Grant Program.

Tuna Australia has also facilitated chain of cusody certification for Tuna Australia processors up and down the Eastern seaboard. This ensures MSC-labelled produce can be traced from the boat to the endpoint of sale.

Processing of MSC-certified tuna. Photo by Millstream Media/Tuna Australia.

Walker Seafoods Australia, which has held MSC certification since 2015, pursued the blue fish tick to prove to the public, wholesalers, and chefs how sustainable the fishery is.

“I kept coming up against people believing tuna and swordfish were overfished in Australian waters,” said co-owner Heidi Walker, “and that was stopping people buying it and chefs putting it on their menu.

“Once we received certification, we gained new customers here and overseas, and also educated people about sustainability and our fishery, and the great work done by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.”

Healthy ecosystems

The ETBF extends the length of Australia’s east coast from Cape York to the waters around Tasmania. This area includes waters protected in several Australian Marine Parks, such as the 1-million square kilometre Coral Sea Marine Park and Lord Howe Marine Park.

“The MSC certification demonstrates a commitment to a sustainable fishing industry and to maintaining healthy and resilient marine ecosystems,” said Jason Mundy, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Parks Australia.

This [sustainability] commitment is vital to the management of Australian Marine Parks and helps to protect our precious marine life and their habitats and ensures our unique marine environment can be enjoyed by all Australians now and into the future.”

In Australia, commercial fisheries are subject to high levels of regulation, reporting, and monitoring.

“Australia’s commercial fishing industry is one of the most sustainable in the world,” said Seafood Industry Australia CEO Veronica Papacosta.

“For the seventh consecutive year, Australia’s Commonwealth-managed fisheries have been given the tick of sustainability. This is something our commercial fishers are very proud of, and is unprecedented internationally.

As fishers, our priority is the ocean.

“We advocate the health, sustainability and future of our ocean. It’s our livelihood and the future livelihood of generations to come,” said Papacosta.

‘Great thirst for sustainability’

The MSC certification will meet the demand of food-conscious consumers, including those eating tuna—one of the world’s most widely consumed and popular fish.

“Consumers worldwide are demanding more information on the sustainability and traceability of fish and seafood products,” said Anne Gabriel, MSC Oceania Program Director.

Tuna swimming in the wild. Photo by Al McGlashan.

A global survey conducted by MSC in early 2020 found that two-thirds of respondents agree that claims about sustainability should be labelled by an independent organization.

“The MSC blue fish tick can help fulfill these commitments by ensuring sustainability against a rigorous and demanding standard and providing traceability from ocean to plate,” said Gabriel.

“The ETBF certification provides Australian consumers with an opportunity to expand their love for tuna from the popular canned range to savouring a culinary experience such as MSC yellowfin tuna with wonton crackers.”

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