John West under fire as Greenpeace accuses it of breaking sustainability promise on tuna

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Tuna brand John West is facing a growing customer backlash after it was accused of breaking a promise to use sustainable methods to catch its fish.

The company had pledged to catch all its tuna sustainably by 2016 but Greenpeace has alleged that only 2% is caught in such a way.

Instead, it gets nearly all of its tuna in nets using so-called Fish Aggregating Devices, which endanger marine life, including sharks and close-to-extinction sea turtles, Greenpeace said.

“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,” Ariana Densham, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace, said.

Consumers took to Twitter to express their anger and encourage fellow users to sign a Greenpeace petition.

But John West defended itself, saying that the global supply of pole and line caught tuna had reduced significantly since their sustainability promise.

“Our total pole-and-line supply is considerably higher than the Greenpeace league table suggests; much of this is supplied to retailers for their private labels to help them achieve their stretching sustainability targets,” a spokesperson for John West said.

“Quite simply, there is no longer enough pole and line tuna available to meet global demand or Greenpeace targets.

As a result of our commitment to our retail customers we have found it extremely difficult to increase the proportion of John West pole and line tuna that we can provide.”

A traditional fishing method, “pole and line” requires just one hook, one line and one fisherman, catching fish one at a time.

It accounts for roughly 10% of the world’s tuna catch, according to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation. The method virtually eliminates bycatch of sharks, turtles and other larger marine animals

The company said that they define sustainable sourced fish as “not being endangered or threatened; caught by well managed fisheries with scientifically based quotas, via responsible fishing methods; and traceable from catch to consumer.”

Greenpeace praised major UK supermarkets for using sustainable tuna in their own-brand products. 

The ranking showed strong results from Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, topping the list and placed first to third, respectively. Tesco jumped to fourth place.

“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,” Ms Densham said.

“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.”

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October 6, 2015 |
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