John West joins Sainsbury’s, M&S and others in a pledge against fishing methods that bring in a significant bycatch.
One of the biggest players in the UK market for canned tuna has committed to sustainable sourcing. By 2016, John West will source 100% of its tuna for sale in the UK through a combination of pole-and-line vessels, and from fisheries that have pledged not to use Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs). Tuna, and other marine life including sharks and turtles, are drawn to these floating objects, resulting in about one kilogram of bycatch (non-target marine life which is later discarded) for every nine kilograms in the can.
John West – which is owned by Thai Union, the world’s largest seafood producer – joins a host of mainstream retailers, including Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S, Tesco and the Co-op, in cutting FAD-caught tuna from its supply chain. However, it will continue to use purse seines. These are large floating nets, up to a mile long, which also bring in a significant bycatch.
“There is growing recognition that this is not a sustainable way to fish,” says Andrew Kuyk, Director of Sustainability and Competitiveness at the Food and Drink Federation, whose members include seafood processors. “It’s pleasing to see companies like John West publicly acknowledging this.”
John West is also launching an online application to let consumers track the exact source of the fish in their can, down to the boat that made the catch. Traceability is a key concern for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), whose Chain of Custody Standard ensures that its label only appears on seafood from fisheries it has certified as sustainable. To date, six tuna fisheries have been certified: four in the US and Canada, one in New Zealand and one in Japan. – Andrew Purvis
Fishing by numbers
26 million: the number of fish meals sold by McDonald’s in the UK in 2010. As of September 2011, all fish products served in McDonald’s UK restaurants carry the MSC label.
46: the additional tonnes of ‘alternative’ species (coley, pouting, hake, megrim) sold at Sainsbury’s in the two months following its Switch the Fish campaign in June 2011.
207: the percentage increase in sales of Cornish pollack at Waitrose following Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight programme on Channel 4 in the UK.
6: the percentage of the global catch that is certified as sustainable by the MSC.
Photo: Antonio Balaguer soler/Thinkstock