Tuna league table 2011

Find out which tinned tuna is the most environmentally friendly, and which brands are responsible for catching sharks, turtles and possibly even dolphins in their nets.

Find out which tinned tuna is the most environmentally friendly, and which brands are responsible for catching sharks, turtles and possibly even dolphins in their nets.

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Update: 26 July 2011: At last, John West has announced it will change its policies, making its tinned tuna 100 per cent Fad-free and pole and line by 2016. All the companies listed on our league table have now agreed to end the use of Fads (fish aggregation devices) which are responsible for indiscriminate catches including sharks, rays and other fish. Read more >>

Update, 12 April 2011: Now Morrisons supermarkets have joined the rest of the UK's stores to commit to Fad-free tuna in all it's own-brand products for 2013. Fantastic news, this leaves just one brand using destructive tuna fishing methods: John West. Find out more here >>

Update, 9 March 2011: both Princes and Asda have committed to removing tuna caught using fish aggregating devices in combination with purse seine nets from their supply chains by 2014. Read more >>

Fishing practices used by the global tinned tuna industry are responsible for the death of marine animals including sharks and rays, and even rare and endangered sea turtles. Tuna stocks are also in trouble because of overfishing and widespread fishing methods that catch juvenile tuna.

With the UK being the second largest consumer of tinned tuna in the world, Britons have a lot of influence over the fish industry and we can put pressure on them to change. We surveyed major tinned tuna brands and retailers to see how their fishing practices stacked up. All have taken steps to improve their environmental performance in the last two years, but there's still a huge difference between the best and worst.

The only way to protect our marine environment and stocks of fish like tuna is to change the way we manage the oceans. We need to reduce fishing to sustainable levels, abandon destructive fishing practices and set aside large areas as marine reserves – national parks at sea – where no fishing takes place and stocks are allowed to recover.

Methodology

The tinned tuna league table has been compiled on the basis of data obtained from five sources:

  • Retailer and brand supplier responses to a product survey issued by Greenpeace commencing in November 2010.
  • Correspondence with retailers and brand suppliers both before and arising from the survey.
  • Information provided in the course of meetings with retailers and brand suppliers both before and after the issuing of the product survey.
  • Information obtained from Greenpeace volunteers engaging in spot checks of their local supermarkets; and
  • Material that is publicly available on retailer and brand supplier websites.

The data obtained was evaluated by Greenpeace against a set of criteria broadly designed to test each company's commitment to sustainability in relation to their tinned tuna products. The criteria that were applied to determining the sustainability of the tinned tuna provided by those retailers and suppliers included assessing:

  • The fishing methods used by the companies' suppliers of tuna. The companies are judged on the extent to which they have sought to reduce the bycatch associated with their tinned tuna by phasing out the use of FADs with Purse Seine nets. Greenpeace is concerned about the major environmental problem of bycatch – that is the capture and often killing of non-target sea life – which often results from the use of FADs with purse seine nets. Greenpeace believes pole and line, conducted at sustainable levels, is the preferred method for tuna fishing, while purse seining without FADs can also reduce levels of bycatch significantly.
  • Views on the establishment of marine reserves, including specifically the proposal for a reserve in the Pacific Commons: Companies should offer public support for the establishment of marine reserves, including the proposal for the Pacific Commons. Better still, companies should also voluntarily stop sourcing tuna that has been fished from the Pacific Commons and other proposed marine reserves.
  • Species of tuna fish stocked: Different species of tuna are under different levels of pressure so species and stock selectivity is crucial. In general terms, bigeye and yellowfin are of greater concern than Albacore and in turn skipjack, though there are ocean by ocean variations.
  • Labeling: Companies were judged on the credibility of the claims they made about the environmentally-friendliness of their tinned tuna products, and the amount of specificity they gave to consumers – for example, whether they named the catch method, the species and the origin of the fishery on the tin - to allow consumers to choose a more sustainable product.

Note that a criterion regarding a company's adherence to independent dolphin safety certification standards was not included, as all companies are now sourcing 'dolphin safe' tuna from Earth Island Institute accredited suppliers.

Greenpeace is grateful for the assistance provided by retailers and brand suppliers in providing relevant information as well as for the assistance provided by various third party experts.

Read the report behind the league table: Tinned Tuna's Secret Catch

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