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Passion Behind The Product

How American Tuna Is Making Waves in the Canned Fish Industry

Meet American Tuna. This family owned company uses the most sustainable fishing method around—and they utilize only American ports, trucking, and canners.

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Did you know that 90 percent of the 7.1 billion pounds of seafood that Americans consume every year is imported? I didn’t, and it’s a disturbing statistic on so many levels—environmental, economic, and personal.

Let’s turn our attention to one huge segment of that market, canned tuna. First, a primer on methods of harvesting: long-line, purse seine, and pole-and-line. Long-line is exactly that—long lines(up to 60 miles long!) with multiple branches, hooks, and bait. These can attract and snag vast numbers of non-targeted marine life, including sea turtles, seabirds, sharks, and marine mammals. Obviously a bad idea.

Even more undesirable is the purse seine method. It involves a large wall of netting deployed around an entire area or school of fish that is then drawn in from the bottom. It is a destructive, nonselective fishing method that captures everything that it surrounds, including protected species. Definitely the worst.

Then there’s pole-and-line fishing, the good guy coming to the rescue. In this method, fishermen use barbless hooks and poles to catch tuna one at a time near the sea’s surface. One guy, one pole, one fish at a time, with no bycatch or harm to other species, and far less impact on the targeted stocks.

Joel Cardoza of American Tuna puts that in perspective: “Purse seining often results in harvests of 200 tons in one day, while American pole-and-line vessels will catch 200–300 tons in four months of fishing—an entire season.”

The Only American Pole-and-Line Tuna

Once upon a time, the U.S. West Coast was the tuna capital of the world. Now most of our tuna comes from unregulated foreign sources. American Tuna and the American Albacore Fishing Association (AAFA) are determined to restore some of that glory, and in the process preserve the environment and improve Americans’ tuna diet.

Joel Cardoza has tuna in his blood, going back through several generations of Portuguese fisherman. It wasn’t his intention to follow in his forebears’ footsteps though. He had just graduated from college with a degree in graphic design and marketing when his mom married a pole-and-line fisherman, helped found the AAFA, and asked him to design a logo for the family business. And pretty soon, he was hooked.

“It was a unique opportunity to build something from the ground up. AAFA was the first commercial tuna fishery in the world to achieve MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification, and American Tuna is the only brand that exclusively sources American pole-and-line tuna,” he says.

For Cardoza, there were too many positives to enumerate, with benefits to environmental sustainability, local economies, and consumers eager for high-quality/low-impact foods. “Pole-and-line commercial fishing is the most sustainable method of harvesting tuna in history. It also provides substantial socio-economic benefits to the communities that harvest the tuna—we utilize American ports, American trucking, and American canners in the Pacific Northwest.”

And you can trace your can of American Tuna back to the specific ship and captain that caught it. As Cardoza explains, “Most canned tuna in the world is untraceable ‘mystery fish’ that has been caught any number of ways—none of them good for the ocean. American Tuna maintains the chain of custody throughout harvesting and production down to the final product.”

But the proof is in the pudding, or rather the can. American Tuna’s hand-filleted Premium Albacore is hand-packed in the can raw, then sealed and pressure-cooked with no added oil, water, soy, or other fish. The result is nutrient-dense, environmentally responsible deliciousness that will transform the way you think about tuna and its place in your diet.

Photo: Pornchai Mittongtare

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