Is Tuna Good for You?

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Bluefin Tuna
Photo: Bluefin Tuna

The answer is: no. And it’s not good for other people or other species either.

Humans have been eating tuna for a long time. According to the journal New Scientist, people have been deep sea fishing for tuna for 42,000 years. But just because we’ve been doing something for a long time, doesn’t necessarily mean we should keep doing it.

Unfortunately, a lot has happened to the Earth and its oceans over those centuries – notably in the most recent one. There are a number of extremely compelling reasons for why we should stop eating tuna now.

5 Reasons Why We Should Not Eat Tuna

1. Tuna contains mercury, which is toxic for humans.

Eating contaminated fish is the number one cause of mercury exposure in America, says the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC.) And what’s the problem with mercury? Quite simply, it’s toxic to us and therefore causes a host of problems.

According to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, “chronic exposure, even to low concentration levels of mercury, can cause cardiovascular, reproductive, and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and carcinogenicity” in humans. The study found a link between mercury toxicity and heart disease. A study published by the American Heart Association confirmed this. It found that men with the highest levels of mercury increased their risk for heart disease by 60% and their risk of dying of a heart attack by 70%. (Source: PETA.)

Mercury gets into fish when it’s emitted into the air from factories and coal-burning plants, and then it settles into our waterways. Large predatory fish – like tuna – have high concentrations of mercury in their bodies because they eat high on the food chain, consuming organisms and other fish that have absorbed mercury themselves. While the EPA says that adults can eat canned light tuna every three or four days, the NRDC says that children should avoid eating fish altogether and that women of childbearing age should stick to no more than four ounces per week. It begs the question – why eat it at all, especially if there are good-tasting alternatives, like vegan mock tuna salad recipes?

2. Eating tuna is contributing to human slavery. Yep, you heard that right.

Thai Commercial Fishing
Photo: The Environmental Justice Foundation via One Green Planet

In a story by One Green Planet, a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) stated that “international demand for cheap seafood is driving the degradation of marine ecosystems as well as fueling human trafficking in Thailand.”

How is this happening? Thailand is the third largest seafood exporter in the world, and the drop in fish populations has caused Thai fisherman to resort to desperate measures to reach quotas to make ends meet. Thai fishing boats are now catching only 15% of what they caught 50 years ago. As a result, they’re having to travel further to find fish, and they’re having to resort to illegal fishing practices to do so. All the while, they’re making less money for their effort.

The work is so brutal that many Thai refuse to do it, so commercial fishing companies are relying on more desperate measures to get workers. According to the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), 33% of seafood workers in Thailand have been trafficked, and 57% have experienced forced labor.

What does this have to do with the tuna sandwich you just bought at that convenience store? Thirty-nine percent of the wild-caught seafood that enters the U.S. market is illegally harvested in Thailand. And tuna and shrimp are the top two fish that enter the U.S. from Thailand. There’s no doubt that in our global economy, we have to find more innovative and humane ways for people to be treated and to be able to earn a living wage.

3. Tuna fishing still kills dolphins (and other marine life.)

Two Dolphins
Photo: Dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean

Tuna and dolphins swim together. It’s believed they do so because they prey on the same food and also possibly as a defense mechanism against common predators. In fact, many commercial fishing operations will look for dolphins in order to catch tuna. In Japan, commercial fishers kill large numbers of dolphins because they want to destroy the competition for dwindling tuna supplies.

In addition, dolphins and other marine life, including whales, sharks, sea turtles, and others, get killed when they’re trapped in fishing nets from commercial fishing operations. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that at least 100,000 dolphins are killed in the U.S. alone every year from tuna fishing.

4. Tuna fishing kills tuna – and they’re on the brink of extinction.

A study by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean showed that “after heavy fishing in the 1950s, the bluefin tuna population crashed in the 1960s, and computer models estimated the current population at only 2.6% of what it would have been around 1900 before large-scale fishing.”

Despite this, the Trump Administration has refused to put the Pacific bluefin tuna on the Endangered Species List. While other types of tuna are used in tuna salad recipes, many of those are included in The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “red list” in its Seafood Watch Guide.

The red list includes 57 types of tuna that should be avoided because of overfishing and the risk of collapse for not just tuna populations, but the ecosystems of which they’re an integral part. For the most part, the Aquarium only recommends eating tuna that is line caught. Isn’t it easier to just make a vegan tuna salad sandwich and go about your day?

5. Vegan “tuna” salad is delicious.

Vegan Kid

And now the easiest reason to give up eating tuna fish: Delicious alternatives exist! Transitioning to vegan foods involves both a cultural shift and a shift in personal habits – both of which are easier than we might think. When I look back at how I craved tuna fish sandwiches, it all seems very foreign to me. It simply no longer appeals to me. Time heals, and it certainly does when it comes to food cravings.

If you’re looking for a delicious vegan mock tuna salad recipe. we have three of the best in our post:

Be well and enjoy!

By Kristen M. Stanton

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