Sealord puzzled by tuna results

January 17, 2011 09:52

Sealord is puzzling over the results of Greenpeace-funded Spanish lab tests showing that a canned tuna spread sold in New Zealand contains a species protected as a "recreational only" fish in Australia, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to The Nelson Mail.

Testing which it has commissioned from a university lab in Thailand, where the product is made, has failed to produce the same result. Tests by National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) scientists in New Zealand of a random batch of the same product have also failed to find longtail tuna.

Sealord is now looking at further testing of the samples kept from the batch identified by Greenpeace, but communications manager Alison Sykora said today the Spanish results were puzzling.

She said Sealord Tuna Spread was a "minced, mashed up 23 per cent tuna product", and Niwa had been unable to get enough "clean protein" from its samples to get an exact DNA match.

If the Spanish lab had studied pure tuna, "it would have been a lot easier". Sealord was seeking more information on the lab's methodology.Sealord did not source longtail tuna. Also, it was only fished at certain times of the year, and it could be shown that it was not present in the Thai factory at the time the batch was produced.

The Greenpeace study looked at 165 canned and pouched tuna products, drawn from 50 brands across 12 countries, and included the New Zealand brands Chop Chop, Greenseas, Pam's and Home Brand. Not every can was able to have its contents identified to a species level, and the Sealord spread was the only local sample where longtail was specifically reported. "We don't believe the species is in this product," Ms Sykora said.

"We are having products retested and working through our tracing records with our supplier to confirm the species."

She said based on the catch records, the Spanish researchers should have found yellowfin tuna.

Sealord was proud of its sustainability records.

"Despite us not using this species, this issue should not concern people who love tuna. Longtail is a tuna species that is commonly canned and used by many brands and manufacturers around the world. It is not an overfished species in areas where we source our tuna."

But Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Karli Thomas said that internationally there was "no reliable stock assessment for longtail tuna, so the use of this species in canned tuna is a concern". The Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation reported that the species is "heavily exploited" by underdeveloped countries, she said.

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