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Global Environment

John West concedes defeat!

What’s in a can? No seriously, do you know the contents of your favourite brand of tinned tuna and whether it is providing you with an environmentally friendly product?

Photo credit: NOAA

As of 2008, Greenpeace UK have been ranking tinned tuna from leading providers across the UK according to how sustainable they are. After years of being ranked as the lowest or close to the bottom, John West have finally accepted the onslaught of criticism and are vouching to change their fishing practices.

John West tuna products have been ranked by Greenpeace UK as the least sustainable in 2008, mainly a result of their controversial use of purse-seining with fish aggregation devices (FADs) for obtaining tuna for their products. The company rejected this notion, continuing the use of this damaging method with a high bycatch impact (the unintentional capturing of non-target species) on sensitive species groups such as sea turtles, sea birds, marine mammals and sharks. It is the bycatch impacts that makes such tuna product unsustainable, and not the actual use of the fish per se. John West denied these claims, implying that the company was not bothered by the impact of their fishing methods. John west products have not made much headway since 2008, being ranked second to last in Greenpeace’s latest tables in 2011.

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Click below for the 2011 Greenpeace Tuna League Table:

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Thankfully, the company announced a joint sustainable sourcing programme alongside Greenpeace in July 2011. The main aim of this programme will see 100 per cent of its tuna products sold in the UK to be obtained using sustainable pole and line technique by 2016, pledging to remove any fishing fleets that utilize FADs. John West described this target as “challenging”, with five year plan aimed at achieving this 100 per cent target (starting at 25 per cent by the end of 2012, 35 per cent by 2013, 50 per cent by 2014, and 100 per cent by 2016). Such a change in administration is well received by critics, seeing as John West is the leading supplier of tinned fishery products. This would hopefully also set the bar for competing British brands to keep maintaining their current standards.

In December of 2012, the company announced that it would phase out FADs by the end of 2015, bringing it one step closer to its sustainability goals. This increased commitment by John West has been heralded as a victory by Australians, when 20,000 individuals warned the company that they would stop buying its products if the company did not change its ways.

A tuna ensnared in fishing nets (Photo credit: Danilo Cedrone)

At the end of the day, such an accomplishment not only represents a win for ocean fisheries and sensitive species, but also a win for consumers that are becoming increasingly more environmentally conscious. We can now continue enjoying tinned tuna, knowing that other marine species are not being compromised.

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