Princes tinned tuna linked to mass shark deaths as Tesco does u-turn

Last edited 10 January 2011 at 2:06pm

Japanese-owned giant faces mass product recall bid over misleading tinned tuna claims

9 January, 2011

Princes – who sell more tinned tuna than any other company in the UK – have been caught using a fishing method which is responsible for catching sharks and turtles, and possibly even dolphins, a new report reveals today.

The food and drink company, owned by Japanese giant Mitsubishi, has been ranked bottom of an environmentally friendly tinned tuna league table, compiled by Greenpeace, due to their use of destructive fishing methods to catch its tinned tuna.

Supermarkets Asda and Morrisons are the worst retailers, languishing near to the foot of the table, only just above Princes, because of the poor sustainability levels of their own-brand tuna products.

Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer jointly topped the Greenpeace league table, with Waitrose in second place. All three use pole and line, a traditional method of fishing that minimises the catch of other species.

This weekend, following a Greenpeace investigation, Tesco capitulated to the environmental campaigners and promised to source tinned tuna only caught using the environmentally friendly pole and line method by the end of 2012. The supermarket giant performed a swift u-turn when it learned that it was due to be ranked last in Greenpeace’s league table.

The majority of Princes tinned tuna, as well as Morrisons and Asda’s, are caught using fish aggregating devices, or FADs, along with vast nets known as purse seines. FADs are floating objects often equipped with satellite-linked sonar devices. Tuna instinctively gather around them, which some scientists think is for shelter and protection.

But FADs also attract a host of other species including turtles and sharks, as well as juvenile tuna that are scooped up by purse seines. These nets form a huge curtain that encircles the catch and then closes around them. On average, every time this method is used, 1kg of other species will be caught for every 9kg of tuna (1).

Greenpeace is now calling for Princes to recall all its tinned tuna because false claims on the packaging are misleading customers.  Greenpeace will also file a letter of complaint with the Office of Fair Trading on Monday. The wording on the tuna cans says “Princes is fully committed to fishing methods which protect the marine environment and marine life”.

David Ritter, head of Greenpeace’s oceans campaign, said:

“Endangered sharks and other species are killed every year while catching tuna to be put in tins. And, despite the hugely misleading claims on their cans, Princes are the worst of the lot.

“It’s time for Princes to follow Sainsburys and M&S and stop selling tuna caught using methods which cause the deaths of sharks and many other marine animals.

“If the whole fishing industry is going to be truly sustainable, then they must also support the introduction of large scale marine reserves across the world’s oceans.”

Paul Willgoss, Marks & Spencer Head of Food Technology said: "We’re delighted to see that Greenpeace have recognised all of the work we have done to ensure we have the most sustainable fish available for our customers to enjoy. We know that responsible fish sourcing is really important to our customers and we want to make it as easy as possible for them to buy food they can trust. This award helps to reaffirm our industry leading position in addressing fish sustainability - we were the first retailer to switch all our tuna to 100% pole and line caught tuna back in 2009 whether it be in a sandwich, pasta bake or a can of tuna and will continue to work closely with our suppliers and NGOs to ensure our food has been made in the most compassionate way for the environment."

Ally Dingwall, Aquaculture & Fisheries Manager, Sainsbury's, said: "Being rated No 1. for the second time in consecutive Greenpeace reports reinforces our leadership in sourcing fish responsibly.  We take this issue very seriously as a business because our 20 million customers expect us to do the right thing. 

"This is why we moved all of our canned tuna to pole and line caught in 2009, and is also why we announced last week that all tuna used as an ingredient in food, from tuna sandwiches to tuna ready meals, will be caught using the pole and line method by the end of this month. This ensures that 100% of Sainsbury's tuna across all products is responsibly sourced, using the more selective fishing method which helps to eliminate bycatch of other species."


Joint best: Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer

Third: Waitrose

Fourth: The Co-op

Fifth: Tesco

Sixth: Asda

Seventh: Morrisons

Eighth: John West

Worst: Princes


Greenpeace press office: 020 7865 8255


(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

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