Great news on tuna from UK supermarkets

Posted by Ariana Densham — 23 May 2014 at 11:45am - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace / Paul Hilton
Green turtle swimming in the Maldives

Can you see the sharks shaking their tail fins and turtles clapping their flippers? CAN you?!

They’re doing their happy dance because of the recent good news from Asda. 

The supermarket – which is part of the global Walmart group - has committed to applying the same sustainability standards to all the brands of tinned tuna they sell, not just their own brand.

This means that Asda shoppers will no longer have to shoulder the burden of choosing sustainable brands to buy over the dodgy ones - because there will only be ‘good’ ones available on the shelves.

And the sharks, turtles and rays are happy because Asda’s commitment will lead to real change on the water. It closes down one more door for unsustainable tuna to come into the UK market - and end up in cupboards at home.

Much of the world’s tuna is caught in big nets called purse seines, set around floating rafts which attract fish. These are called Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs). This is a deadly combination and a death trap, because this in turn attracts other marine creatures like sharks, turtles and rays  – some of which are endangered. The whole lot is scooped out of the water and usually dies before being thrown overboard.

Asda’s commitment to only stocking sustainable tinned tuna brands means that eventually, all the tuna on offer in their stores will have been caught using either; nets not set on FADs and from pole and line.

Let’s hope the good news here travels over to the other side of the pond where Walmart’s main market is. The US is the world’s biggest canned tuna market (the UK is second), and so we really need to see the same standards adopted across countries. Consumers should be able to get sustainable tuna wherever they live.

This Asda news follows our successful campaign against Tesco, and Oriental & Pacific tinned tuna. Earlier this year, we released our 2014 tuna league table. Tesco came last out of the surveyed supermarkets and Oriental & Pacific came last overall.

After thousands of emails, tweets and phone calls to Tesco about Oriental & Pacific, and after 80,000+ people called on them to drop the brand or force it to clean up – we won. Oriental & Pacific agreed to our demands.

In wider news,  Sainsbury’s (who were top of our tuna league table) effectively already applies the same tuna sustainability standards across all the brands it stocks – with only own brand, John West and Princes on its shelves. In practice Waitrose, the Co-op and Marks and Spencer also only stock tuna which is sustainable, or brands with sustainability commitments, although these supermarkets haven’t made that an explicit commitment. Yet.

So we’ll now be following up with all retailers to get firm public commitments to only stock sustainable brands of tuna.

Public opinion on this issue though is loud and clear. Unsustainable tuna is no longer acceptable. Other supermarkets and tuna companies still selling unsustainable tuna would be wise to heed this. Otherwise they may be next in the firing line.  

About Ariana

I’m Ariana and I’m an campaigner in the Oceans team at Greenpeace UK.  

interested? Follow me on twitter @arianadensham


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