Why you might want to think more about what’s in the can
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Everyone wants to save the world. It’s a common sentiment and there are even songs about it. But how can you save the world when you are rocking a pretty tight “poor student” budget? I mean, let’s be honest here, going green is awesome in theory, but it can be a little pricey. In an effort to do my part in raising the collective awareness of ecological conservation (in short, I’m a tree hugger looking for good karma), I’ve decided to start a new column that addresses how you can help in the conservation effort, without emptying out your wallet.
The first step in going green is a pretty easy one, and it involves your shopping habits—more precisely, your tuna shopping habits.
Tuna is a college diet staple, along with other cheap and easy foods such as ramen, macaroni, and beer. Canned tuna also has some pretty amazing health benefits, including improving your concentration, helping you lose weight, and providing much-needed calcium, which is especially important for women and athletes to ensure they maintain high bone density later in life—believe me, you’ll be praising the tuna gods when you don’t have to deal with osteoporosis.
Tuna is an all-around good food to work into your diet, but how can it be green? To put it simply, it’s all in how the fish are caught.
The most widely used method when it comes to commercial tuna fishing is called “trawling.” It involves casting a large net out that is then pulled slowly behind several large boats. The problem with this method is it is incredibly destructive to the ocean environment, and endangers many animals besides tuna—sharks, seals, whales, dolphins, turtles, and many others all run the risk of getting caught in the net alongside the fish. Because damage to the catch and equipment can be costly, any unwanted intruder in the net is usually killed, or dies as a result of drowning. Now I know that may sound funny, but keep in mind that dolphins, turtles, whales and seals all breathe air, so they have to surface and the trawl net can be cast out for an entire day before it is brought in and inspected. Similarly, sharks can also drown, because some breeds have special types of gills that require them to be in perpetual motion and the trawl net moves so slowly that they can actually drown in a matter of minutes if caught in one.
Now on to a happier topic, how can you help?
By buying tuna that specifically states it is “pole and line,” you ensure that you are not buying tuna that is fished using the trawling method. Pole and line is a reference to a more ecologically friendly method of fishing, similar to the one your dad might have taught you—fishing rods, bait, endless hours sitting on a boat waiting for a nibble. This method eliminates the risk of catching anything unwanted, because the majority of ocean predators won’t be attracted to a single fish, and if something is caught, it can be safely released more easily. This method also eliminates the risk of over-fishing and is good for the economy because it forces companies to employ more commercial fisherman.
Now that you know the difference, let’s get down to the real question—how does all this affect the price?
In years past, pole and line tuna was up to three to four times more expensive than the more standard tuna. Nowadays, because of pressure from the public for companies to be more eco-friendly, pole and line tuna is pretty much on par price-wise with its more destructive competitors. To put it into perspective, I went to a grocery store and compared them. A can of Ocean’s Pole & Line Flaked Light Tuna in Water was $1.88, while a can of Clover Leaf Flaked Light Tuna in Water was $1.38. So there still is a bit of a price difference, but Clover Leaf was ranked the worst canned fish and seafood company in Canada by Greenpeace for its lacklustre efforts towards ocean conservation.