Can you tell? The low down on canned seafood

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Sardines/pilchards, mackerel, salmon, tuna all have a story… You may be surprised to know that your canned seafood may not be the most sustainable seafood on the block. Reading the label is one way to know exactly what you are eating. It’s even better when retailers and brands label their products. You might find information such as:

What: The species of the fish (there are many types of tuna, sardines & mackerel…)

Where: the ocean/sea or place it was caught/farmed

How: What fishing/farming method was used

The humble sardine, also known as pilchards, is a popular South African favourite. Many tinned varieties are Sardina pichardus  i.e a European pilchard that is orange listed. South African sardines, Sardinops sagax are also orange listed. This means think twice- maybe leave it for the endangered African penguin, it’s their favourite food. These small pelagic fish have been struggling to recover and the low numbers has been concerning  especially on the West Coast.  You might also spot ‘Brisling sardines’ Sprattus spratyss, commonly known as sprat. This can be either green (best choice) or orange (think twice) depending on where it is from.

Tucking into a tinned tuna? In the South African market, we typically encounter 5 types of tuna: Albacore, bigeye tuna, bluefin tuna, skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna. Most canned tuna is likely skipjack, most popularly caught in the South China Sea, off the coast of Thailand. Albacore tuna also found in jars may be a better option (green or orange listed). Search ‘tuna’ on the SASSI list to learn about this multi-faceted fish!

Mackerel, sometimes labelled explicitly and other times labelled as Middlecut, are caught in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean. Scomber scombrus or Atlantic Mackerel is green listed when caught by purse seine & orange listed when trawled. Be sure to read your labels, consult the SASSI app and make a sustainable choice.

Last but not least on our list of canned seafood favourites is the famous, salmon. We know by now that salmon is orange listed 2 (think twice) and farmed in the Atlantic. (Sadly, not all farmed seafood is sustainable!) Good news -canned salmon steaks at selected retailers are labelled as ASC certified. This means it is certified sustainable  by Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Read your labels and remember that ASC is a sustainable choice when it comes to farmed seafood.

These determine the ecological sustainability status of a species. Always read your labels and consult the SASSI app/website to see whether the fish in your tin is truly sustainable: https://wwfsassi.co.za/sassi-list/