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Greenpeace UK has recently issued a number of statements in criticism of ‘Tesco on being a Dodgy Dealer over tinned tuna’. Highlighted by Hugh’s Fish Fight programme on Sunday night (2 March), Tesco has been deceitful when it comes to labelling its tuna. But as Greenpeace UK reflect, Tesco customers could be excused for being a little confused at what exactly is going on.

“This is made worse”, as Greenpeace campaigners write, “by some of the comforting corporate lines that Tesco is churning out to customers on social media.” According to recent reports, “Tesco is the dodgiest supermarket, cynically replacing own brand tuna shelf space with a new unsustainable ‘branded’ tin – Oriental & Pacific (O&P),” when “O&P ranks as the least sustainably-caught tuna over-all,” because they exercise “destructive methods that result in large amounts of bycatch of species like sharks, rays and turtles.”

According to Greenpeace, “this makes a mockery of the spirit of the commitment Tesco made in 2011, as unsustainable tuna with the bitter taste of bycatch is still readily available in Tesco stores.”

Despite claims made by Tesco that they have acted faster than other supermarkets to put sustainable Tuna on their shelves, Greenpeace campaigners rightly point out that Tesco has been lagging behind Sainsburys, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose & the Cooperative. Tesco were not one of the first retailers 100% move to pole and line own brand Tuna. According to Greenpeace, Tesco was one of the last retailers to do so. This is despite Tesco pledging in 2012 that all its own brand tuna was sustainably caught, where most of Tesco tuna sold under the Oriental and Pacific (O&P) brand is caught using large nets.  These nets, also known as purse seines, involve creating a large circular ‘net wall’ around shoals of fish, and closing or ‘pursing’ the bottom to capture the fish. This method of capture often results in other ‘non-target’ species being caught and is highly destructive to ocean life.

With world’s oceans in pearl, large supermarket chains like Tesco should be trying to lead the retail industry. But instead of committing to their promises, the ethics behind Tesco tuna should be questioned as, according to Greenpeace UK, “they are yet again at the bottom of the pile and being dragged along kicking and screaming”.

Greenpeace UK Oceans Campaigner, Ariana Densham, said: “Morrisons joins Sainsbury’s as a market leader on tuna sustainability. They have eliminated unsustainable tuna from their products, which is great news for sharks, turtles and rays…If Tesco wants to catch up with the front runners and win back consumer confidence, they must take this dirty tuna off their shelves today.”

As we witnessed during Hugh’s latest Fish Fight programme, Tesco’s public commitments to sustainable Tuna are paper thin, especially when one considers the impact of industrial scale fishing to fill Tesco’s shelves does not just impact fish, but sharks, turtles, rays and other ocean creatures too. The question we should ask is, “what sort of oceans do you want left in 50 years’ time, Tesco?”

As an ethical consumer, there are a number of things you can do to pressure Tesco to change its ways. You can follow Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s calls for Tesco to take the O&P brand off its shelves by joining the Greenpeace campaign for sustainable fishing. You can also support the cause by helping to raise awareness on social media and by supporting supermarkets that support alternative, sustainable fishing methods.

For more on tinned tuna see our guide to tinned tuna

Also see our latest research on supermarkets

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