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Tesco Forced to Back Down in Tinned Tuna Row

14 April 2014

UK - Greenpeace and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are claiming victory in their campaign against Tesco and the cut-price tuna brand Oriental and Pacific.

An investigation into the tinned tuna brand revealed it uses a fishing method that kills sharks, rays and turtles. The campaign launched early last month calling for Tesco to pull the brand, but Britain’s biggest supermarket refused to act, said Greenpeace. Now the manufacturers of Oriental & Pacific have written to Greenpeace saying that from end of April 2015 it will only sell sustainable-sourced tuna.

Greenpeace has welcomed the move, which puts Oriental & Pacific on a par with other major UK tuna brands. But Tesco still comes in for stinging criticism. The supermarket had previously committed to making its own-brand tuna sustainable – but as soon as it fulfilled that promise it then introduced unsustainable Oriental & Pacific tuna, in a stroke undermining its public commitment to protecting the oceans, said Greenpeace.

Ariana Densham, Greenpeace UK Oceans Campaigner said: “It’s great news that the manufacturers of Oriental & Pacific have reacted to public pressure. Their tinned tuna is caught using a method that kills sharks, rays and turtles, but next year that will end. That means this dodgy tuna will no longer be found on the shelves of Britain’s biggest supermarket, but that’s no thanks to Tesco. They failed to move when we revealed how Oriental & Pacific tuna is caught, they undermined their own public commitment to protect the oceans and even undercut their own brand tuna. They should now make a public commitment that any new brands of tinned tuna they sell will be caught using sustainable methods.”

Greenpeace believes tuna can only be said to be sustainable if it is caught using the pole and line method, or in nets without floating rafts called fish aggregation devices (FADs), which attract and kill sharks, rays and turtles, some of which are endangered species.

LDH – the owners of the Oriental & Pacific brand - said in the statement that they will commit to sustainable tuna supplies from April 2015 and in the meantime will only be dealing in a pre-existing stockpile of less sustainable tuna.

Ariana Densham added: “The campaign to ensure that the UK’s supermarket shelves are only filled with sustainable tuna is not over. The discounters are obviously increasingly big players in the UK market and we will be looking at what is on their shelves and in their tins, as well as looking further at the tuna coming from the major global suppliers. We want the success of our campaign to now spread around the world."

Tesco initially came under fire from the Greenpeace and celebrity chef, Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall in early March when Tesco was ranked at the bottom of the major supermarkets for tinned tuna sustainability in the Greenpeace 2014 tuna league table. Since then over 85, 000 people have called on Philip Clarke, CEO of Tesco, to remove Oriental and Pacific from its shelves – a request the supermarket bullishly rejected, said Greenpeace.

Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall also welcomed the news: "My investigation with Greenpeace into tinned tuna showed that Tesco were undermining the spirit of their commitment to sustainable tuna, by bringing in a new brand called Oriental & Pacific. Oriental & Pacific tuna is currently being caught in a way that harms other marine life like sharks and turtles. The company that makes Oriental & Pacific has made a commitment to eliminate tuna caught in this damaging way from their tins, and that is great news. I want to say a huge thank you to the thousands of people who told Tesco they didn't want this sort of tuna on sale.

“But it really shouldn't need an investigation like ours to reveal this sort of thing - our big retailers need to make sure that customers have the information they need when they are choosing what to put in their basket. So I call on Tesco to insist that Oriental & Pacific has a clear label stating the catch method, to make sure we can trust these commitments. In the meantime, I don't think anyone should buy a tin of tuna that doesn't say how it was caught."

TheFishSite News Desk

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