Whether in a sushi roll, in a tin or in their natural environment, tuna are loved worldwide.
And so they should be – they are sleek, fast and majestic creatures that also support the livelihoods of costal peoples and provide a staple protein for people around the world.
But tuna are in trouble.
Stocks are under pressure as big tuna companies break laws, exploit workers and use destructive fishing methods to get as much of what’s left as they can.
The species we know and love – the very same ones that end up in our cans and sushi rolls – are under huge pressure, and if we don’t turn things around there’s going to be a gap in menus where tuna used to be.
Consumers have a huge role to play. Consumer pressure has contributed to some of the most positive changes we’ve seen so far. But there’s a lot more work to do.
If you like eating tuna, the first step, aside from eating less tuna, is knowing one tuna type from another, so you know what to go for and what to avoid.
But whether you’re a cook, consumer, or ocean lover, it’s worth knowing how popular tuna types are faring:
Albacore: Found in various forms; canned, smoked and fresh. Near-Threatened status with all populations in decline and some already overfished. Pacific stocks are in better shape. Known as white tuna. Choose healthier stocks.
Bigeye: Most often found as tuna steaks, sushi or sashimi, bigeye is one of the two species known as ahi, along with yellowfin. Juvenile bigeye are sometimes confused with skipjack and caught accidentally with indiscriminate fishing methods. Official status: Vulnerable – just below Endangered, with all populations in decline and some already overfished. Avoid.
Bluefin: The most iconic and commercially valuable of all tuna. There are actually three different types: Atlantic, Pacific and Southern. Found in high-end restaurants as sashimi or in sushi. Official Status: On the brink of collapse. If current trends continue, the species will soon be commercially extinct in the Pacific. Avoid.
Skipjack: Most abundant and commonly found in canned tuna but also in pet food. Often labelled light tuna. Not yet overfished, but if current catch rates continue it could be. Sometimes small bigeye and yellowfin are accidentally mixed with skipjack and end up in the same can. The best tuna choice.
Yellowfin: Mostly found as tuna steaks, or in sashimi or sushi but also in cans. Official status: Near Threatened, with all populations in decline and some already overfished. Best to avoid.
Tongol: Usually found in cans. Stocks are not as well assessed as other tuna, but overfishing on stocks is suspected. Best to avoid