Greenpeace tuna

Activists have been sticking protest labels on John West products

A tie-up between John West and conservation charity WWF has been dismissed by Greenpeace as “green spin”.

Under the arrangement – announced today (31 October) - all products sold in Europe by John West owner MW Brands will be sourced from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified fisheries or farms, or from those engaged in projects to bring them up to MSC/ASC standards.

But Greenpeace oceans campaigner Sarah North claimed John West’s customers “aren’t going to be fooled by this kind of green spin”, and that MSC didn’t prevent the use of controversial fish aggregating devices (FAD) and purse seine nets, which can inadvertently kill other marine life.

“FADs is a dirty fishing method that catches and kills sharks, rays and turtles,” she said, adding the only way to ensure 100% responsible sourcing was to go 100% FAD-free.

In recent weeks Greenpeace activists have targeted John West tuna in supermarkets by placing stickers on cans warning consumers that their fish was “caught using methods that kill sharks, turtles and rays”.

Greenpeace added that more than 150,000 letters had been sent to John West and rival processor Princes during the past week, urging them to abandon FAD fishing methods. John West had responded to the claims by stating it was working to implement eco-FADs, which it stated prevented the entanglement of non-target species, stating “Our goal is to reach 100% eco-FADs by the end of 2015.”

North claimed John West had backtracked on a commitment to abandon the use of FADs. “It said it was moving to 100% ‘eco-FAD’ instead, but sadly, eco-FADs are an eco-fudge,” she said. “If you read between the lines, it’s clear John West’s only real commitment is ‘business as usual’ for cheap tuna.”

But John West MD Paul Reenan said the business was “vehemently opposed to fishing practices that endanger non-target species”.

“Our objective is to see an industry where by-catch is eliminated. John West’s ambitions, however, go much further; we want to ensure the sustainability of fisheries for years to come.”

He added: “This is exactly why we are partnering with WWF, one of the world’s most highly regarded experts in marine ecosystems.

“Together with our existing long-term partnerships with many other scientific bodies, including ISSF and MSC, our work with WWF will ensure we bring genuine improvements to the sustainability of two of the world’s largest fisheries.”