A change in tuna policy: Morrisons move means all UK supermarkets switch

Posted by Willie — 12 April 2011 at 9:35am - Comments
Tuna caught in the Pacific Ocean
All rights reserved. Credit: Alex Hofford/Greenpeace
Tuna caught in the Pacific Ocean

Brilliant news! 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 towards being more sustainable. This leaves John West as the last major supplier left that still needs to change its tuna.

An amazing development, this news follows fast behind similar commitments by supermarket giants Tesco and Asda, plus leading 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. 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.'   

The problem, as you probably know, is that to catch enough tuna to fill tins, other marine life is needlessly caught and killed: in huge numbers. If you haven’t seen Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall tackling the big brands on the misleading claims on their cans of tuna you should check out his Channel 4 series on 4oD here.

Our recent Greenpeace report, Tinned Tuna's Secret Catch also highlighted the dark side of the UK's most popular fishy sandwich filler.

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, with notably great exposure from Hugh’s Fish Fight series, 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.

Above: tuna and bycatch caught in purse seining nets


Consumers in the UK are now very lucky when it comes to tinned tuna. Customer demand has meant that we 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 on your local supermarket shelf are making a difference, half a world away in the ocean.

Since Greenpeace started this campaign for real back in 2008, much has changed: on the back of the huge shift by UK brands, we're now tackling tinned tuna markets in many other countries, like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Netherlands

But, back in the UK, today’s news undoubtedly gives you one more reason to be happy to shop at Morrisons.
John Worst

However, there is one grey cloud still hanging over our tinned tuna shelves – namely John West. They are the single biggest brand name in the UK, yet are still holding out and onto wasteful purse-seining with Fads as the methods used to catch their tuna. They now stand alone. And so every shopper in the UK has a better, less destructive, alternative if they want to buy tuna... so it makes sense that John West really need to change their ways very soon.

Thank you for already making a huge difference! But you can also help us make John West change its tuna too: if you haven’t already done so please write to them now so we can make UK tinned tuna 100 per cent Fad free.


Great work Greenpeace! Congratulations on yet another victory for biodiversity in our oceans. An excellent campaign.

About Willie

Hi, I'm Willie, I work with Greenpeace on all things ocean-related

Twitter: @williemackenzie

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