Oliver Knowles onboard the Rainbow Warrior

European tinned-tuna giant Bolton has started 2012 with a press release full of highly ambiguous language about its environmental commitments. The release appears designed to both get Greenpeace off the company’s back and to convince customers that it is working to achieve maximum s

ustainability in it

s tuna supply chain. In the press release, Bolton claim to be aiming for ‘100% sustainable tuna by 2017’. But what does this mean?  On closer inspection, it seems that Bolton is failing to make a clear commitment to adopt responsible fishing methods, such as pole and line and fishing without the use of destructive Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs).

Our question to Bolton is – are you committing to source only from pole and line or FAD-free fishing in line with your previous commitments, or is your press release greenwash (misleading claims about environmental achievements)?

Greenpeace is campaigning to transform global tuna fisheries and protect our oceans, including the Pacific, where around 70% of the world’s tuna is fished. We’ve asked tinned tuna companies around the world to phase out the use of destructive FADs and adopt more sustainable fishing methods, such as pole and line or FAD-free fishing.

Tuna caught in the Pacific Ocean

Back in 2011, Bolton made some progress towards this by committing to source 45% of its tinned tuna from pole and line or FAD-free fisheries by 2013. This was progress, but much more can be done; following a concerted Greenpeace campaign in the UK, all of the major retailers there and leading tuna brands Princes and John West agreed to go 100% pole and line or FAD free. This clearly proves that major players can and should achieve the highest standards and make solid commitments to protect our oceans for the future; there is no excuse for Bolton to commit to anything less.


Bolton’s press release declares that ‘the company is working to achieve 100% sustainable tuna by 2017, as a natural evolution of the objective of 45% by 2013.’ At first glance this looked like good news. But a closer inspection reveals this to be a carefully crafted sentence using highly ambiguous language that could mean next to nothing! By linking its new ‘100% sustainability’ figure to the previously agreed 45% (that we knew to be a commitment to pole and line or FAD-free fishing methods) Bolton is clearly trying to give the impression that the 100% is also going to be pole and line or FAD-free, in line with Greenpeace’s demands. But it stops short of being explicit on this issue.

It’s not that we’re an untrusting bunch at Greenpeace, but we’re asking Bolton to clarify its position, as it has given the impression of a strong commitment without actually making one.

Pole-and-line fishing in the Pacific Ocean

Our question to Bolton remains – does your commitment to ‘100% sustainability’ mean a commitment to only sell tuna that is pole and line caught or FAD-free, in line with your previous commitment?

In fact, nowhere in the press release does Bolton actually explain what it means by ‘100% sustainable tuna’ by 2017. Nor can we find any clear criteria for what this means on their website. Without such details, this kind of claim is at best meaningless, at worst, highly misleading to its customers.

Until Bolton agrees to stop using destructive and wasteful FADs and only source pole and line or FAD-free tuna, as progressive UK companies have done, our campaign to encourage them to change will continue.

Bolton, please clarify your position.

Oliver Knowles is a Greenpeace International oceans campaigner based in London.