Get Involved: Greenpeace Take Action Against Unsustainable Fishing

Bethany Chuck looks at Greenpeace’s recent action against supermarkets selling unsustainably fished tuna, and explains how you can get involved with Greenpeace’s campaigns.

Photo by Samantha Owens, Twitter
Photo by Samantha Owens, Twitter

Greenpeace are constantly campaigning across the UK to help ensure the protection of the environment, and work to educate the public about unethical practices. With a local group in Falmouth, and a society being put together on campus, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved, and their latest action against unsustainable tuna fishing exemplifies the work Greenpeace do to educate the public.

On Monday 7 November, Greenpeace activists in Cornwall entered Sainsbury’s in Falmouth and removed John West tuna from the shelves, adding labels that read “John West tuna no longer in stock. Greenpeace has cleared this shelf of John West’s unsustainable tuna. Ask @Sainsbury’s to drop this destructive brand”. It’s not just in Falmouth that this is happening; all across the UK Greenpeace activists are removing John West tuna from the shelves as part of Greenpeace’s “Just Tuna” campaign, which is targeting fishing companies that are using unsustainable fishing methods.

Almost five years ago, John West and their parent company, Thai Union, made a commitment to use 100% sustainable fishing methods to catch their tuna, however the latest published figures show that only 2% of John West’s tuna is sustainably caught; the rest is sourced from suppliers who use “fish aggravating devices” (FADs).

FADs are devices that fishing companies leave in the ocean to attract large schools of fish into a concentrated area. Larger predators are also then attracted. Once a mini ecosystem is created around the FAD, the fishing boats move in, then corner and scoop up all of the marine life that has gathered around the device. But it’s not just tuna that are caught in this trap; other marine animals are trapped and hauled onto the boat, then slaughtered and thrown away as unwanted bycatch. These animals include turtles, sharks, rays and many other kinds of fish (some of which are endangered). FADs are not only incredibly destructive to marine life; they are also dangerous to passing boats. Greenpeace has been campaigning for a global ban on FADs as they are devices that will hasten the destruction of a wide range of marine species.

Not only does John West catch 98% of its fish using destructive FADs, Thai Union, (the largest tuna company in the world) has been increasingly linked to environmental destruction and human rights abuses, including bonded labour and human trafficking, in its supply chain.

Tuna can be fished sustainably by using pole and line to catch fish individually. Thanks to public support, Greenpeace has managed to put an enormous amount of pressure on all of the major supermarkets. This has resulted in all major supermarkets committing to using 100% sustainably fished tuna in their own brand tins. In addition to this, Waitrose and Tesco have already stated publicly that they will not stock or sell any tuna that is not sustainably caught, and to drop any product or brand that fails to meet this. This has put an enormous amount of pressure on John West to change and improve.

Whilst Sainsbury’s own brand tuna is now fished 100% sustainably, they are still profiting from selling unsustainably fished John West tuna, which they have still not agreed to drop from their shelves. So Greenpeace decided to take direct action.


If this action interests you, you too can get involved with Greenpeace. Greenpeace is an organisation that defends the natural world and promotes peace by investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse and championing solutions. Greenpeace has numerous campaigns which focus on a range of subjects, including stopping climate change, saving the arctic, defending the oceans, protecting the forests, eliminating toxins and working for peace.

Greenpeace volunteers meet in local groups across the UK to take actions, hold events and run stalls, which promote and support campaigns. They are always looking for new volunteers to do a range of activities, such as campaigning on the high street, doing photography for the local group, helping with events and campaign planning and managing social media, lobbying politicians, helping at festivals or, after training, taking non-violent direct action like this – and much bigger national actions too.

The Greenpeace Falmouth group meets every first Wednesday of the month from 7:30pm-8:30pm at The Front pub in Falmouth centre. Join the Facebook group for Greenpeace Falmouth here to learn about upcoming events and meetings.

A society is also in the works on campus, which will hopefully be fully set up by September 2017. In the meantime, the committee needs all the help and support it can get! If you would like to help set up the society and be part of the committee, or if you would be interested in joining as a member, or would just like to find out more about future events, then go to the Greenpeace Falmouth Society page here.

Learn more about Greenpeace here.

Watch a video about volunteering with Greenpeace.

Watch a video about their tuna campaign.

Watch a video about FADs.