Princes refutes Greenpeace claims on endangered tuna

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Princes refutes Greenpeace claims on endangered tuna
Princes has rebuffed claims by Greenpeace that it sources fish from endangered species, but agreed to amend wording on tins "after listening to recent feedback".

Princes itself does not catch fish, sourcing it from fisheries and fleets, and only targets skipjack tuna rather than bigeye or other depleted species, a spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: "Princes does not, and will not, trade in any species assessed by the IUCN ​[International Union for Conservation of Nature] as being endangered or critically endangered.

“This was re-confirmed as part of the information we submitted to Greenpeace last year and we plan to clarify the current wording in our ​[sustainability] statement online."

Its comments came as Greenpeace accused the firm of using unsustainable fishing practices and accused it of misleading consumers with statements on its tins.

Damaging fishing method

In its new report ‘Tinned Tuna’s Secret Catch’, Greenpeace alleges that Princes sources no more than 25% of tuna using the traditional ‘pole and line’ method where fish are caught singly, mainly using high-yielding but damaging fish aggregation devices (FADs), where fish group around floating objects and are netted up with other tuna species, juvenile fish, sharks, rays and turtles.

Greenpeace also claims that Princes’ admission that some UK cans contain officially ‘threatened’ species bigeye tuna (after genetic testing by Greenpeace) means the firm is breaking Article 2.4 of its own sustainability statement.

This says: “Princes does not, and will not, trade in any species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as being critically endangered. This includes all species that have red status on the IUCN list of threatened species.”

However, it did recognise Princes’ support for ‘no take’ marine reserves to allow stock recovery, and a pledge to label can content by species in 2011, although it said the firm should also include data about catch method and origin.

Sainsbury’s tops league table

Greenpeace published the report alongside its ‘Tuna League Table 2011’, where it praises table-topper Sainsbury’s for sourcing tuna exclusive sourcing via pole and line, accurate labelling, support for Pacific marine reserves and its use of skipjack and MSC albacore tuna alone.

Conversely, Princes came last in its table, and was rapped by the NGO for claiming on tins that it is "fully committed to fishing methods which protect the marine environment and marine life"​ given its use of bigeye and FADs.

Princes will change labelling

But Princes said: “We are aware of recent criticism of the statement…​[which]… was originally introduced following our decision to support the Earth Island Institute (EII) international monitoring programme, which led to the introduction of the 'Dolphin Friendly' logo on our products.

“We committed last year to conduct a review of our labels. This review has now taken place, and we will be removing the statement from all new packaging.

“Whilst we have been advised that our current statement does not breach labelling regulations, as a result of our review and from listening to recent feedback, the statement will be replaced with information that will direct consumers to view our full sustainable seafood statement online.”

UK the world's biggest consumer of tinned tuna

Greenpeace says the UK is the world’s second largest tinned tuna consumer, with 778m tins sold in 2008, and Princes accounting for 35.9% of the market in value terms.

Given dwindling global tuna stocks and rising consumption – 1m tonnes of all species were fished in 1966 compared with 4.3m in 2006 – Greenpeace says a world industry worth $2.7bn must act now to safeguard stocks.

Related topics: Meat, poultry & seafood

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