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Bumble Bee Says Customers Now Can Trace Their Tuna

Photo by Tom Fudge

A can of Bumble Bee white albacore tuna is pictured, Oct. 28, 2015.

Photo by Tom Fudge

A can of Bumble Bee tuna shows the production code on the bottom that allows customers to learn where the tuna comes from, Oct. 28, 2015.

San Diego-based Bumble Bee Seafoods has set up a website that allows customers to find out where and how their tuna was caught.

San Diego-based Bumble Bee Seafoods has set up a website that allows customers to find out where and how their tuna was caught.

Buy some Bumble Bee Tuna at a market and there's a code number on bottom of the can that you can enter into what they call a "catch tracer" on the company website. That takes you to another site that shows where the tuna was caught, what the catch method was, where it was canned and even what was the flag on the vessel.

"We've always been able to trace our products back from catch to plate. But we felt that it would be in the consumers' best interest to have that capability on their own," said Dave Melbourne, senior vice president of marketing for Bumble Bee Seafoods.

The website has made an impression on people involved in tuna conservation.

"This is valuable information for the consumer," said Bill Jacobson, with the National Marine Fishery Service. "It was interesting that they are willing to say what boat caught the fish and how it’s flagged. I'm surprised they are going that far in their transparency."

Bumble Bee, like other companies in the industry, has faced criticism related to overfishing and what's called bycatch, catching and killing other fish and mammals that aren't tuna. Transparency, of course, can make the company look either good or bad.

I tested the system with a can of Bumble Bee tuna I bought at Vons. The code on the can indicated my tuna was caught in the Indian Ocean by a method called longline. Both the method of catch and the place they were caught were reasons to "avoid" buying the tuna, according to Seafoodwatch.org, which is associated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Melbourne, with Bumble Bee Seafoods, responds by saying Bumble Bee's fishing is in line with the standards of the ISSF, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.

"There are a lot of different organizations out there that take positions on certain issues," he said. "Within each of these fisheries there is a maximum sustainable yield...As a member of ISSF we have signed on to supporting sustainable fishing methods."

The San Diego company has a cannery in Santa Fe Springs.

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