Up to 90% of the seafood consumed in the United States comes from foreign sources. And of the species most commonly imported, tuna is at the top of the list. Furthermore, imported tuna from countries like Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam end up competing right alongside our domestic catch. While it’s no secret that imported tuna is cheaper and more widely available in restaurants and retailers across the US, fewer people seem to understand the most important differences. Here are some things to consider when making the choice to buy foreign vs domestic fish:
Quality and Freshness:
The Hawaii fleet supplying bigeye, yellowfin tuna, and other pelagic species like mahimahi and swordfish to US markets is a fresh-fish-fishery. The boats are catching in the pristine waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, packing the fish into ice and then offloading at home in Honolulu where it goes directly to the consumer. The foreign fleets operating in the Pacific often stay out at sea for months, even years at a time before offloading their frozen products to transhipment vessels that then send the catch to another country before finally exporting to the US market. So if you buy a tuna loin from Indonesia for example, you don’t know where it was caught, how old it is or how many hands it’s gone through to get to you.
Confidence In Food Safety:
Foreign imports are not subjected to the stringent rules of the US government has in place to ensure food safety. U.S. seafood has an excellent track record of being clean and safe to eat, a record that foreign competitors can’t claim. Just last year, a major salmonella outbreak on the US mainland was linked to imported tuna. And in the last 2 months, a major Hepatitis A outbreak has been traced to imported scallops from the Phillipines. The widespread use of carbon monoxide for preservation adds further mystery to the nature of imported products. These techniques essentially disguise the quality of the fish making it appear to be fresh when it in fact it isn’t. The products that come from Hawaii’s fishery are never treated with carbon monoxide and you can rest assured that what you see is what you get.
It’s A Sustainable Catch:
The Hawaii longline fishery is one of the best managed in the entire world. From outstanding scores on the United Nations FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries to the highest the level of observer coverage in the Pacific, no other fleet meets the high level of regulatory oversight that the Hawaii fleet does. Buying Hawaiian tuna means you are supporting a fishery that has the systems in place to achieve sustainability. Many of Hawaii’s foreign competitors have dismal track records on sustainability with little regard for protected species by-catch or international quotas.
There are over 1 million Americans with jobs in fisheries and as stated U.S. fishermen are the most regulated in the entire world. By buying Hawaiian tuna, you are both supporting a domestic industry and at the same time not rewarding foreign operations that ultimately undercut the hard work and responsible practices employed by US fishermen.