Progress for our oceans: UK retailer gives tuna a break and US supermarkets are ranked

April 13, 2011 09:42
UK retailer Morrisons has announced a new policy on tinned tuna, committing to stop sourcing fish caught via destructive fishing methods: this means that now all major UK supermarkets have now changed their policy toward being more sustainable. This leaves John West as the last major UK tuna supplier left that still needs to change its tuna, reports with reference to Greenpeace.

An amazing development, this news follows fast behind similar commitments by UK supermarket giants Tesco and Asda, plus leading tuna brand Princes. The move is also a direct result of the pressure brought on the major UK brands by Greenpeace, ably assisted by the great work of Hugh's Fish Fight programmes on British television. Our latest win to clean up the UK's tinned tuna industry also features in today's Independent newspaper - described as 'one of the most successful environmental campaigns in years.'   

Morrisons' new commitment is great: not only will it apply to all tinned tuna, but also to all the tuna they use as ingredients - such as in sandwiches and ready meals. They are also moving fast, and aim to have these plans implemented by 2013 - a full year ahead of Asda and Princes.

In just a few months since our tuna league table launch in January, the UK has gone from a two tier tinned tuna marketplace (with progressive good guys like Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer blazing a trail, but the big brands being slow to engage), rapidly evolving to where just one brand (John West) now stands out on the shelf for all the wrong reasons.

After Morrisons move, now more than 70% of the major brands of tinned tuna in the UK have switched, or committed to, sustainable fishing methods. They've also recognised that the information they give customers just isn't good enough; in months to come you'll be seeing more informative labelling on your cans of tuna, plus you'll know that the impact that these cans have on the oceans is much less.

The big issue is purse-seining using fish aggregating devices (FADs). When Fads are used, acting as lures for lucrative tuna, the amount of bycatch caught in the seine nets increases tenfold. That bycatch is not just wasteful, but also totally unacceptable as many of the species caught, killed, and chucked back over the side, are locally or globally threatened. No one picking up tin of tuna should have to worry about endangered sharks, turtles or even other species of tuna being the hidden cost of their lunch.

Consumers in the UK are now very lucky when it comes to tinned tuna. Customer demand has meant that they are now leading the world in sourcing this international commodity sustainably. Many recognisable UK brands - like Asda, Princes and Tesco - are international, so this impact is felt far beyond our shores. We also have commitments from these retailers to support protected areas at sea, like the Pacific Commons, by not sourcing their fish from there. That means the changes UK supermarket shelves- the second largest tinned tuna market- are making a difference, half a world away in the ocean.

Also today, in the USA, Greenpeace is releasing its supermarket ranking, Carting Away the Oceans. This year's ranking, the fifth released by our office in the States, has some surprise winners. While no U.S. retailer receives a "green" ranking, many have taken important steps forward. U.S. retailers Safeway (which tops this ranking) and Wegman's have backed Greenpeace calls for a Ross Sea marine reserve and many supermarkets have removed vulnerable orange roughy from their shelves.

Greenpeace wants to ensure we have fish for the future, that the fishing industry will sustain itself instead of fishing itself out of existence, that consumers can continue to enjoy the fruits of the sea without being complicit in its destruction and the people who need fish, as food or sources of income, can survive.

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