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A can of tuna that comes with a side of sustainability

You can officially stop holding your nose in the tuna aisle now.

Where most of Canada's largest tinned tuna brands are still sourced from environmentally-dubious fisheries, the albacore tuna from Raincoast Trading, a seafood company based in Delta, B.C., is approved by both the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise program and Greenpeace Canada, which recently awarded it top marks for sustainability. The way it's caught is a big part of the appeal: Raincoast doesn't use purse seine nets or floating lines that trail with thousands of baited hooks, the way most tuna companies do it. Every fish the company cans is caught from healthy stocks in the Pacific Northwest by surface trolling or pole and line, which means a single, barbless hook on a single line, attached to the back of a boat. The company doesn't bother with the usual dolphin-safe logo, either, a symbol that many conservationists argue is all but worthless. "What about the sea turtles that they're catching on their long-lines?" said Kim Stockburn, who is Raincoast's sales manager. "What about all the other species, the sharks, the seabirds that get killed?"

But it's what happens once the fish is caught that sets Raincoast even further apart. The tuna is cooked just once, in the cans, instead of beforehand, so it doesn't lose its oils or nutrients or have to be packed in water. The cans themselves are BPA-free.

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It costs more than the usual supermarket stuff, of course: typically between $5 and $6 a can. Ms. Stockburn said she spends most of her days persuading consumers that it's worth spending more. "There's a perception that tuna should be cheap, that it should all be $1 a can," she said.

That perception is changing, thankfully. In its report last month, Greenpeace singled out a few of the bigger fish companies for taking serious steps toward more sustainable (and ultimately, costlier) methods, including Ocean Brands, which recently introduced its own pole-and-line caught tuna. In the end, the difference between destructive fisheries and sustainable ones amounts to a little more than a dollar a sandwich – not to mention the possibility that we'll still be able to eat tuna 30 years from now.

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Chris More

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