As an avid sport fisherman and former guide, Ocean Brands vice-president Ian Ricketts has a vested interest in sustainability. It was the B.C.-based company’s ongoing efforts in this space that played a big role in his decision to join it last year
“They were already on a path to sustainability leadership in the industry, which made it more attractive for me to be a part of,” says Ricketts of his decision to leave Overwaitea Food Group to take a senior leadership role with Ocean Brands.
An increased emphasis on its sustainability practices helped Ocean Brands place fourth overall on Greenpeace Canada’s most recent Canned Tuna Sustainability Ranking, moving up from ninth in 2013, when the study was last conducted.
The survey ranks Canada’s leading canned tuna brands based on several key metrics: Their sustainability policy; the health of their tuna stocks (ie: not overfished or being fished beyond their ability to rejuvenate); the fishing methods used; product labelling and customer education; support for marine reserves and promoting industry change; commitment to supporting fair and ethical labour practices, and avoiding illegal, unreported or unregulated products.
The Greenpeace report says Ocean Brands has “proven its desire to be the market share leader on sustainability” over the past year, noting the company has made “significant changes” to its practices in the wake of its 2013 acquisition of the Gold Seal brand.
Ocean Brands says it was the first national brand in Canada to bring tuna caught using pole-and-line fishing to grocery shelves. Advocacy groups such as Greenpeace favour this method because it eliminates “by-catch” such as non-target fish, seabirds, turtles etc.
The company was also a founding member of the International Pole & Line Foundation in 2012; since 2013, all of its value-added tuna products have been produced using free-swimming caught fish.
Since 2015, all its Albacore tuna products are sourced using either pole-and-line or circle hook fisheries, and the company says it will have successfully transitioned all of its light tuna to either pole-and-line or free-swimming caught fish by the end of the year.
“Healthy food, responsibly sourced, is going from niche to mainstream, and we want to do the same thing with tuna,” says Ricketts. “It’s not about marketing a cache brand of tuna, it’s about giving Canadians a great product at a price they can afford.”
Raincoast Trading topped the 16 canned tuna brands on the Greenpeace list, followed by Wild Planet Foods and Whole Food Market’s 365 Everyday Value brand (complete rankings can be found here).
Canadians consume an estimated $198 million worth of canned tuna each year, according to Ocean Brands.