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John West ‘trashing oceans for cheap tuna’

John West accused of breaking its promise to consumers: only 2% of its tuna is sustainable
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Tuna Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

Greenpeace’s 2015 tuna league table sees the UK’s largest tinned tuna brand, John West, sink to the bottom of the ranking: a woeful 98% of its tuna is caught using destructive and unsustainable fishing methods.

Fishlove – celebrities pose with fish to raise awareness of overfishing

Dirty tuna fishing


After promising consumers back in 2011 that 100% of its tuna would be sustainable by 2016, John West has managed only a dismal 2% – with nearly all of its tuna caught in nets using so-called Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) which indiscriminately kill a host of other marine life, including sharks and even endangered sea turtles.

’No intention’ of keeping promise

Ariana Densham, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said John West is ‘plumbing the depths of irresponsibility.’

‘In 2011 John West guaranteed consumers its tuna would be 100% sustainable by 2016 – but with little over a year to go, a pathetic 2% of its tuna is caught in a way which minimises harm to other marine life. It’s clear John West has no intention of keeping its sustainability promise.

‘It’s a great achievement that all major supermarkets in the UK now only use fully sustainable tuna in their own brand products, caught using the pole and line method or in nets without FADs, which minimises harm to other animals. But John West continues to plumb the depths of irresponsibility – flooding our shelves with cheap tuna which comes at a huge cost: the indiscriminate killing of marine life. It’s also undermining the world-leading standard set by UK supermarkets.

‘The tide is turning on companies which sell unsustainable tuna and unless John West keeps its promise to UK consumers to stop using destructive fishing methods, it will find itself cast adrift.’

Ariana Densham, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK

Top scorers

Greenpeace’s Tuna League Table 2015 saw strong results from Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s (placed first to third, respectively), as well as great progress from Tesco, which jumped up the rankings to fourth place.

‘We are delighted that our efforts in ensuring we offer sustainable and ethical tuna to customers has been recognised. All of our canned tuna is pole and line caught and clearly marked as Marine Stewardship Council certified, including all the tuna in ready-prepared products such as sandwiches and pâtés.

‘In addition all skipjack tuna used as an ingredient in any Waitrose product is also Marine Stewardship Council certified. Sustainability is at the very heart of what we do and we are proud to be market-leading.’

Jeremy Ryland Langley, Waitrose Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager

Aldi & Lidl

For the first time, Greenpeace included fast-growing budget supermarkets Aldi and Lidl – which performed very differently.

Aldi entered the ranking in a solid fifth place, with a good sustainability record in its own-brand products, while Lidl languished in ninth – the lowest placed supermarket – just ahead of the big brands Princes and John West.

‘We are pleased to receive this recognition from Greenpeace for our tuna policy. Sourcing fish in a responsible way is really important to us and to our customers. We work with our suppliers and a range of organisations, such as Greenpeace, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and the Marine Stewardship Council, to drive continuous improvements for fisheries and aquaculture.

‘Having met our 2016 target a year early, Aldi UK and Ireland now sources all canned tuna using only responsible methods that minimise the impact on endangered species, such as sea turtles.’

Jonathan Neale, Aldi’s Managing Director of Buying

Princes has failed to meet its sustainability commitment, but is pipped for rock-bottom place by John West due to the higher levels of unsustainable tuna in its tins.

The rankings

With all major UK supermarkets and brands ranked, Greenpeace’s tuna league table assesses sustainability levels, fishing methods, supply chain traceability, legality, protection of local workers and other factors.

1. Waitrose

  • A go to #JustTuna brand – other companies should follow their lead.
  • Tuna is 100% sustainably caught and Waitrose is dedicated to ensuring it is fairly caught.
  • They say: ‘Sustainability is at the very heart of what we do’.

2. M&S

  • Top #JustTuna brand – other companies should follow their lead.
  • 100% sustainably caught using pole-and-line method and strong sea to shelf traceability.
  • On sustainable tuna they say: ’the future of the world’s fisheries depends on it’.

3. Sainsbury’s

  • Top #JustTuna brand – other brands need to follow their lead.
  • 100% pole-and-line caught tuna with strong sustainability policies.
  • Tuna is sourced fairly meaning local workers and communities are protected.
  • They say: ‘We hope further progress can be made within the sector to make our oceans safer for marine species’.

4. Tesco

  • Huge progress made all round since last league table.
  • 100% pole-and-line caught tuna.
  • Good traceability of tuna from sea to shelf and strong policies to avoid illegally caught fish.
  • They say: ‘we want to ensure that our customers can buy seafood that is both sustainable and affordable.’

5. Aldi

  • Strong new entrant to the league table.
  • Their own brand is 100% sustainably caught which minimises harm to the oceans.
  • They say: ‘sourcing fish in a responsible way is really important to us’.

6. Asda

  • Improvements being made but could do better.
  • Recently met their promise to source 100% tuna using sustainable fishing methods.
  • Could do more to avoid overfished stocks.

7. Morrisons

  • 100% sustainably caught… But could do more to improve.
  • Policies to avoid illegally caught tuna and overfished stocks should be formalised.
  • Could do more to promote the most sustainable choices in stores.

8. The Cooperative

  • Could be worse, should be better.
  • Their tuna is 100% sustainably caught – which is great!
  • They must strengthen their policies to avoid illegally caught fish and the treatment of workers.

9. Lidl

  • Lidl’s tuna is not good for the oceans – nearly 80% is caught using destructive fishing methods.
  • They should commit to sourcing tuna using only sustainable fishing methods.
  • On the positive, Lidl has good sea to shelf traceability.

10. Princes

  • Score well for protecting local workers but very poor sustainability.
  • Princes promised 100% sustainable tuna by the end of 2014. They’ve managed a measley 25%.
  • Continue to use unsustainable methods to catch tuna, which also kill all kinds of other creatures in their nets.

11. John West

  • They promised 100% sustainable tuna by 2016 – so far they’ve managed 2%. They show little intention to change.
  • John West’s owners, Thai Union, have been linked to human rights abuses in their seafood supply chains.
  • They must stop using unsustainable fishing methods that catch sharks, endangered turtles and other creatures.

Click here to find out more about Greenpeace’s #JustTuna campaign.

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