Top tuna brand drops environmental claim

One of Britain’s biggest tuna brands, Princes, has agreed to drop an environmental claim from its tins following an investigation by Greenpeace.

Prince said it would immediately ditch labelling claiming that its fishing methods protected the environment and marine life and would instead refer shoppers to an environmental statement on its website.

Greenpeace this week complained to the Office of Fair Trading that Princes’ labelling was misleading the public.

In a survey on Monday, the environmental group had ranked Princes, which supplies one third of the UK’s tinned tuna, bottom of eight branded and supermarked own-brand tunas for sustainability. John West, another big tuna company, was ranked second bottom.

Both companies heavily rely on purse seining which scoops up and kills all marine life congregating under man-made rafts known as fish aggregating devices (FADS) including sharks and turtles.

Princes had been stating on its labels: “Princes is fully committed to fishing methods which protect the marine environment and marine life.”

Greenpeace researchers and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the TV chef who has filmed a Channel 4 special on tuna to be screened tonight, questioned that claim.

Ahead of the screening, a Princes spokeswoman told The Independent: “We were going to commit to remove our label anyway and we have brought that forward a little.”

The new label will read: “To view our seafood sustainability statement, visit princes.co.uk”.

At the weekend, Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco announced that it was abandoning purse seining and moving to the more sustainable pole and line method by 2012. Tesco said: “We’ve been moving in this direction for some time – just recently we increased the proportion of pole-and-line to 25 per cent of our own brand canned tuna as a step towards our goal.”

Greenpeace had been intending to rank Tesco last in its table but, following its change of heart, ranked it fourth, behind Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose which sell only pole and line-caught tuna.

Joss Garman, campaigner for Greenpeace, said: “This climb down is an admission that Princes have been caught red handed. Thousands of sharks, turtles and possibly even dolphins are being caught in Princes tuna nets, and all when they could use other greener fishing methods like Sainsburys already do."

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “It’s absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t want to claim all the credit because Greenpeace have been working on this for a long time.”

He added: “It was looking like a very bad week for Tesco because our show was coming out and Greenpeace were putting out their announcement of their league table.”

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