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pole-fished tuna canned in the Azores


The prejudices about canned tuna

We can all remember the scandals when it became common knowledge that the tuna fishery had a bycatch of dolphins and that these dolphins were included in the tuna fish. Canned dolphin was a standard line when mentioning canned tuna, and the prejudice is alive and well. Later, the sometimes high content of heavy metals in tuna (and other predatory fish) came to light, and made tuna even more unpopular in the general consciousness. Despite this, tuna is still one of the world's most popular edible fish, and the tarnished reputation is not always justified.

Why do I love canned tuna?

There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is that I have always liked preserves. It may sound a bit absurd, but I had a canning club with my grandfather. We ate preserves together and tried to find things that were special or different. It was about exotic cans with food and stories from the warm countries. It stands as one of the fondest memories from my childhood, and means that I am always on the lookout for new preserves. For me, canning is a way of preserving taste and expression in food products, and it is a preservation method that beats all competitors when it comes to preserving freshness and consistency. That's why I bought a can of the most amazing tuna I had ever tasted. A golden can with rod and line fished skipjack tuna. I had sailed across the Atlantic with a group of friends, and when we landed in the Azores, I went in search of canned goods. there are still manufacturers who focus on quality rather than quantity.

pole-fished tuna canned in the Azores

Southern Europe has an exciting tradition in preserves, so the selection is a lot more exciting and varied than we are used to. In contrast to here at home, there are still manufacturers who focus on quality rather than quantity. I found my holy grail in the Azores. A canned tuna that was so clean, so clear and so flavorful in experience that I had to surrender on the spot. But how could this heavenly tuna even be tuna? Wasn't tuna the cheap cans of dolphin meat down from Netto?

The bad reputation

Recent years' strong growth in sushi, in particular, has contributed to the strain on the tuna population, with the Atlantic tuna particularly hard hit. Tuna has become an endangered species of fish, due to demand alone. In addition, tuna is a predatory fish, which means that it accumulates heavy metals throughout its lifetime. This results in older tuna having a sometimes very high content of heavy metals, which we absorb into the body when we eat them. The heavy metals
originates from us - not from the cans we put the tuna in - but from the heavy metals, especially methylmercury, that we discharge into the world's oceans. There is the result of humanity's rampant industrialization and associated pollution, as well as naturally discharged mercury from underground volcanoes. All life in the sea contains mercury, but because predatory fish feed on other fish and animals from the sea, they accumulate more in their bodies. This applies to all predators in the sea, from tuna to dolphins. However, the heavy metals in canned tuna do not come from dolphins, if there was any suspicion - when it says Dolphin Safe on the cans, they are dolphin-free. The problem with heavy metals in tuna is greatest in the largest fish. A luxury tuna such as bluefin tuna, which is extremely popular in sushi, can live over thirty years and weigh almost 700 kilos. A fish of that age and size has accumulated heavy metals over a long life, and therefore passes on more heavy metals to the people who eat it.

How do you avoid heavy metals in your salad nicoise?

You cannot avoid heavy metals 100% in fish. But you can do many things to make sure that the fish you eat is healthy and harmless. The skipjack tuna I found in the Azores is an excellent example. The species skipjack (katsuwonus pelamis) belongs to the lowest end of the tuna food chain, and it is a fast-breeding tuna, which contributes to the fact that it is caught younger, so that it has a naturally low content of heavy metals. Due to its good reproductive characteristics and rapid growth, the population is stable and the skipjack is therefore not threatened. It's tuna with a good conscience. The fishermen in the Azores also catch it with rod and line, which means that they only catch the tuna they need and that the only thing they catch is tuna. The most important thing you can do as a consumer is to go for quality over quantity. If you look carefully, you can get tuna that is responsible towards both nature and the consumer.
In fact, the skipjack is both healthy and on the WWF's green list. If you are afraid of bycatch of dolphins (and other animals) in industrial tuna, look for the logos Dolphin Safe and pole and line (inplf) - then you will not get Flipper in your meal.
pole-fished tuna canned in the Azores
Published in MapDiet Magasinet - No. 2 - August 2018

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