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Sainsbury’s still entangled with John West

Mar 7

Written by:
07/03/2017 13:45  RssIcon

Greenpeace is asking consumers to put pressure on Sainsbury's to drop John West 

John West is the UK’s market leader in ready-to-eat fish products controlling 36% of total sales in 2015/16.

Its market share is almost as large as the market share of all own-brand products combined, including the ones by the major UK supermarkets.[1] John West tuna products accounted for 23% of total UK sales in the same period.[1]

Greenpeace is asking consumers to target the John West brand of tinned tuna, by asking Sainsbury’s to drop it, because of John West's persistent use of environmentally destructive fishing methods.

Image: Fishing


Despite past commitments to change its practices, the company continues to source tuna from fishing vessels that engage in purse-seining in conjunction with Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs). 

Purse seining involves fish being encircled by a large ‘wall’ of net, which is then brought together to retain the fish by using a line at the bottom that closes the net like a purse.

FADs are floating devices around which tuna and other large fish instinctively aggregate in large numbers. Purse-seining, in the absence of FADS, can be highly specific, with little bycatch, when targeting adult schools of one species.

However, when using a FAD, which Greenpeace estimates is the case in about 70% of tuna fishing, an estimated tenth of everything caught is bycatch including highly endangered species such as sharks and turtles. Greenpeace considers this method of fishing so destructive that it campaigns for it to be banned.

Change Your Tuna


John West’s parent company is the Thailand-based, Thai Union Group, the largest producer and exporter of canned tuna in the world. Thai Union Group is a true behemoth of the seafood industry with market leading positions across a range of products (based on tuna, salmon, sardines, prawns, crabs and other aquatic animals) in the US, Europe and China.


Image: Tuna

Following NGO and consumer campaigns, consumers of supermarket own-brand canned tuna products are assured that the tuna they purchase was caught with a fishing method that by itself does not cause undue environmental destruction. Line-and-pole fishing is such a method as it generates no by-catch.

The sad exception in this otherwise laudable situation is Lidl. According to Greenpeace’s Tuna League Table, 80% of the tuna in Lidl’s own-brand tuna, ‘Nixe’, is caught using environmentally destructive methods.

Greenpeace is pointing out that UK supermarkets cannot claim to be environmentally responsible when it comes to tuna products when they persist in stocking brands that engage in environmentally destructive fishing.


Greenpeace justifies their campaign focus on Sainsbury’s because:

“Tesco and Waitrose have already said they could drop John West if they don’t reach high sustainability standards and renounce this destructive fishing method. Tesco have even started taking John West products off their shelves! Customers should expect nothing less from Sainsbury’s.”

Greenpeace says that Sainsbury’s has made no such commitment despite having already received more than 100,000 e-mails asking them to.

Greenpeace is now asking consumers to call Sainsbury’s Customer Carelines and let them know that they would like them to stop selling John West’s tuna.


Ethical Consumer will publish a guide to canned tuna in the May/June issue of the magazine. See our ethical shopping guide to Supermarkets for own-brand ratings. 



1. Mintel Group Limited, Fish and Shellfish – UK – November 2016
2. Thai Union Group, Annual Report 2015 








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