Tinned Tuna Giant John West Quits Destructive Fishing and signs up to Support Pacific Marine Reserves

Press release - 26 July, 2011
London, 26th July 2011- John West today became the last of the major UK tuna industry players to announce that they will shift to greener fishing methods. All of the UK’s major tinned tuna companies and supermarket own-brands have now promised to drop a fishing method which is responsible for high levels of bycatch and have committed to no longer sourcing tuna from within the Pacific Commons marine reserves.

John West, which produces one-third of all the tuna tins sold in the UK and is owned by the world’s largest seafood producing company Thai Union, joins UK companies Princes, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S, Tesco, the Co-op and Morrisons, who have already ditched tuna fishing methods that use vast nets called ‘purse seines’ along with Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs). FADs are floating objects, often equipped with satellite-linked sonar devices, around which tuna instinctively gather, but also attract sharks, juvenile tuna and turtles, all scooped up by fishing nets and mostly discarded as waste.

“This is great news for sharks and other marine life,” said John Sauven, Greenpeace UK Executive Director.

“Just a few months ago, only a minority of tinned tuna retailers had cleaned up their act, but in a short amount of time there’s been a groundbreaking shift across the tinned tuna industry.”

All of the major supermarkets and tuna brands in the UK have also given their backing to the creation of marine reserves in the Pacific, and have promised not to buy tuna from the area known as the Pacific Commons.

The shift by John West makes the UK the world’s most sustainable tinned tuna market. The shift to greener tinned tuna is expected to have a huge effect around the world, as the UK is the world’s second largest consumer of tinned tuna and many of the companies involved, such as Princes, who are owned by Mitsubishi, and Asda, who are owned by Walmart, are part of global corporate giants. Over the coming months Greenpeace will maintain pressure on John West owner MW Brands to apply its new UK policy to the tinned tuna it sells in other countries.

“This move is hugely important beyond the UK too, because it means that changes will have to happen at sea. We should now start to see a real shift towards greener tinned tuna around the world in the very near future,” added Sauven. “Marine reserves in the Pacific Commons would provide much needed protection for fish stocks, the oceans and the millions of people dependent on them for food and jobs.”

The moves follow a campaign launched by Greenpeace UK but now rolling out internationally focusing on further tinned tuna brands. In the last few weeks new Greenpeace campaigns encouraging businesses to abandon FADs and support the Pacific Commons marine reserves have launched in Canada and New Zealand, taking on major brands Clover Leaf and Sealord respectively, with further expansion of the campaign planned over the coming months.

Tuna fishing using FADs is highly wasteful. On average, every time this method is used, 1kg of other species will be caught for every 9kg of tuna (1). By switching to FAD-free and pole and line fishing, as all the major UK companies have now done, bycatch can be reduced by up to 90 per cent.  Earlier this month scientists from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature warned that five out of the eight species of tuna are at risk of extinction.

Greenpeace is campaigning globally for fishing industry reform and for a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans, necessary steps to creating healthy, living oceans for future generations.


Greenpeace International: Oliver Knowles mobile +44 (0)7545 007 631

Greenpeace UK: Simon Clydesdale +44 20 7865 8251, mobile + 44 (0)7989 034113.


(1) D. Bromhead et al, Review of the impact of fish aggregating devices (FADs) on tuna fisheries. Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2003