Gone West: John West tuna could be taken off the shelves by Tesco

Publication date: 29th April 2016

Tesco will ban John West tuna from its stores unless it stops using destructive fishing practices, the retailer said yesterday, in a move which would see one of the world’s biggest supermarkets clearing its shelves of unsustainable tuna.

The announcement comes as the Greenpeace ship the Esperanza is taking action in the Indian Ocean to expose and remove harmful fishing gear linked to the supply chains of John West and its owner Thai Union – despite the UK brand publicly promising to stop using them.

The move would have a huge financial cost for John West, but already carries an ‘unquantifiable reputational damage,’ said John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK. ‘If John West is becoming too toxic for the UK’s biggest supermarket – how long can other retailers afford to be associated with them?’

John West was recently exposed for having secretly broken a public promise to stop using “fish aggregating devices” (FADs), which can result in the accidental catching of all kinds of marine life including sharks.

Tesco has already banned the use of FADs in its own brand tuna, instead using the more sustainable “pole and line” method. In a statement the retailer said it is now “extending the same sustainability requirements to branded tuna products.”

In addition to destructive fishing practices, Thai Union is currently under fire for repeated links to human rights abuses in its supply chains. While John West has said it will work towards certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), it is suggesting vague time periods with ‘no idea of how to get there’, Sauven said.

John Sauven continued:

‘It’s clear that supermarkets have a responsibility for what’s on their shelves – not just what’s in their own-brand products – so it’s great to see Tesco taking that seriously.

‘And it’s not a good forecast for brands like John West who have lagged behind in their public commitment to sustainable tuna.

‘Today, someone sitting in a boardroom in John West HQ will be wondering why they didn’t just stick to their word.

‘Instead of delivering on their promise to be 100% sustainable they’ve been brushing their destructive fishing practices under the carpet.

‘Make no mistake – John West could end up losing millions because of their flagging commitment to protect marine life. But while the financial cost would be huge, the reputational damage is unquantifiable.

‘The significance of this will not be lost on major retailers and tinned tuna brands in other countries. Tesco’s move is a real wake-up call to all poorly performing tinned tuna brands.’


Media contact:

Luke Massey // luke.massey@greenpeace.org // +44 (0)7973 873 155