Do you know where your fish comes from? If you’re passionate about supporting sustainable food systems, the sea is the next frontier, and Wild Planet is one of the companies pioneering practices that will help keep the fishing ecosystem healthy for years to come. There’s a lot to learn about what goes on behind the scenes on fishing boats and in processing facilities, so let’s dive in!
It All Started With a Can of Tuna
William (Bill) Carvalho founded Carvalho Fisheries in 1990 with a tin of pole-and-line-caught albacore tuna, canned in Washington State. In 2004, the company was renamed Wild Planet Foods and was made up of just four employees and two products. Today, Wild Planet is on a mission to lead the industry by example, empower local fishing communities, and educate the public about species diversity.
“Wild Planet provides alternative choices for consumers by offering products with uncompromised standards in sustainability,” Bill shared. “This has brought tremendous pressure on larger industrial brands to play catch-up and improve their own sourcing policies.” Wild Planet’s efforts have paid off—it ranks #1 for Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace Canada, and is a proud partner with Seafood Watch.
“The aggregate effects of all brands moving in the direction of sustainable sourcing standards will ensure the safety of marine life.”
The accolades are impressive, but Wild Planet remains humble as it works to affect industry-wide change, pushing for local governments to require domestic fishermen to adopt more sustainable fishing methods. “The aggregate effects of all brands moving in the direction of sustainable sourcing standards will ensure the safety of marine life,” Bill said. “That is, the assurance that all components of the marine bio-web will be able to reproduce healthily into the future, with balanced diversity intact.”
Sales Director Karen Harbour echoed Bill’s sentiments, and shared more about the urgency to protect fishing ecosystems. “The albacore population may be depleted by about 2050. It’s important to look at other sustainable fish options and bring them to market to create a more diverse category, not simply offer more tuna SKUs.”
What is FAD Fishing?
How your fish is caught matters, not only for the health of the fish itself, but the surrounding ecosystem, too. Take Fish Aggregating Device, aka FAD fishing, a commonly-used method that works by electronically pulling marine life into a net the size of a football field. Sounds like an easy way to make a big catch, right? Yes, but at great cost to the environment because FAD fishing results in pounds of bycatch, sometimes including sharks, dolphins, and other animals. Seafood Watch estimates 200,000 loggerhead sea turtles are caught annually.
Wild Plant does things a little differently, using one pole to catch one fish. “Selective harvest methods such as sustainable pole-and-line fishing are designed to prevent bycatch in the first place. Pole-and-line fishing targets, for example, surface-swimming, mature tuna. Because each fish is removed from the hook by a fisherman, if another species happens to be caught, it can be released back into the ocean,” Bill said. This method is more labor-intensive, but there’s almost zero bycatch (0.5%), and any fish that’s caught, but is too small, is immediately released. This reduces overfishing and doesn’t damage habitats, either.
Seafood Gets Tech-Savvy
Here’s one way to know more about where your fish was sourced: Trace Register is a digital platform that organizes and stores all data from ocean to can. This tool provides a way for retailers to audit brands and verify their catch claims. Here are some of the data points brands can file with the Trace Register database:
- Vessel name and country flag
- Trip dates, area of catch, and port of landing
- Catch method (pole-and-line or troll)
- Total weight of fish brought ashore for sale
- Dolphin-safe statement
Before purchasing fish, ask the retailer or restaurant if they use Trace Register to help guarantee sustainability for all the canned seafood offerings, or contact your favorite brands to ask them directly. (Wild Planet is 100% traceable.) The more consumers demand transparency, the sooner it’ll become an industry standard!
How to Make The Most Out of Canned Seafood
Mashing up tuna with mayo and calling it a day? There’s a lot more you can do to help make sustainable seafood more mainstream! Here are Wild Planet’s best tips for going wild in the kitchen.
Get low. Eating fish that are lower on the food chain isn’t about lowering your standards. By swapping a can of tuna for a smaller, more abundant fish like mackerel, skipjack, or sardines, you’ll build a more sustainable pantry and give your taste buds something new to enjoy, too.
Don’t drain. Wild Planet’s cans are hand-packed and individually pressure-cooked, a process that means manufacturing costs are higher, but guarantees the most nutritious juices around, so don’t let them go to waste!
Star power. Canned seafood is a convenient, affordable protein source, but just because it’s shelf-stable doesn’t mean it should be regulated to the back of the pantry. Bring it up front and incorporate it into your diet more often for maximum health benefits. (See our recipe ideas below!)
Must-Try Wild Planet Products
Yes, there’s plenty of tuna to be had (like this stackable 4-pack) but here are some other options that still bring the flavor and nutrients.
Packed in rich EVOO, these sardines deliver omega-3 fatty acids and protein, plus essential minerals like iron. Each can is filled with skinless and boneless sardines that are scale-free and ready to use. Add them to a bowl of pasta with lemon and breadcrumbs, or enjoy them mashed with some avocado and spooned onto your favorite crackers.
Mackerel are abundant in the North Pacific and offer 13g of protein per serving. The skinless, boneless fillets are a perfect stand-in for tuna and a great gateway fish if you’re branching out to new varieties!
Also known as hamachi, add this healthy fish to your weekday eats! The fillets are boneless and skinless so all you have to do is open the can. Try ‘em in lettuce wraps or scatter over your salad for an extra punch of protein.
Straight from cold Alaskan waters, this salmon was sustainably caught and packaged in a BPA-free can. Boneless, skinless, and preserved in natural juices, this fish is ready to play a starring role in your next meal. Try salmon cakes, sandwiches, or even tacos!
4 of Our Favorite Wild Planet Recipes
Head to the kitchen and get cooking—from salmon to sardines, these canned seafood recipes bring big flavors to simple meals.
To make this elegant and easy lunch, just grab a can of wild Alaskan salmon! We dress it up with mayo, bell peppers, shallot, and parsley before pan-frying the cakes and dipping them in a spicy remoulade sauce.
Bagna cauda is a flavorful sauce from Piedmont, Italy, traditionally made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, and butter. We love it tossed with spaghetti and tender sardines. Don’t forget the lemon juice—it livens up every bite!
Here’s another great idea for sardines! A classic Caesar dressing is made with anchovies, but we swap in a mashed sardine for that perfect, briny flavor in every bite. Pour it over crisp romaine, savory panko breadcrumbs, and salty Parmesan cheese for a perfect salad course.
Give tuna a fresh face! This toasted sandwich is broiled with white cheddar cheese and seasoned with capers, cornichons, and Dijon mustard.