Greenpeace pens letter to retailers urging tuna industry reforms

Published on
July 29, 2016

The American arm of environmental activist group Greenpeace is urging retailers in the United States to demand sustainably-caught tuna.

In an open letter sent earlier this week to U.S. retailers and foodservice companies, John Hocevar, the oceans director for Greenpeace U.S., criticizes the so-called “big three” tuna companies – Chicken of the Sea, StarKist and Bumble Bee, to “clean up their act” when it comes to their tuna supply.

“Major U.S. tuna brands still refuse to provide their customers with sustainable products,” Hocevar wrote. “In fact, the big three major tuna brands, which control approximately 80 percent of the U.S. market, don’t offer a single sustainable tuna product under their flagship brands.”

The letter comes on the heels of a recently filed lawsuit alleging the three major U.S. tuna brands fixed prices on their products and illegally colluded to refuse to supply tuna caught without fish aggregating devices.

“This collusion has had a measurable and serious impact on marine populations, as fishing with FADs has a much higher bycatch rate – particularly for sharks, sea turtles, and juvenile bigeye tuna,” Hocevar wrote.

Hocevar said it is important for U.S. retailers and foodservice companies to demand sustainable tuna in order to “reduce the risk of being linked to environmental and human rights scandals, and [to] demonstrate to customers that they share their values.”

“The tuna industry has made recent progress towards addressing widespread concerns about impacts on marine life and fishermen. From Costco and Aldi to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, it is now possible to find responsibly caught tuna in stores across the United States,” Hocevar said.

He pointed out that retailers Tesco and Waitrose in the United Kingdom have threatened to drop tuna products from Thai-Union brand John West from their stores due to sustainability issues, and urged U.S. retailers and foodservice companies to follow the lead of their peers in the U.K. and demand more sustainability “or start canceling contracts.”

Demanding reform from Thai Union and its American brand, Chicken of the Sea, will lead to industry-wide reforms, Hocevar said, due to Thai Union’s size and influence on the industry.

“When it comes to human rights abuses and environmental devastation, providing consumers with sustainable options alongside tuna that is part of the problem is not good enough. If you’re going to sell it, you need to be able to stand behind it.

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