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John West Customers Click to Trace their Tuna

John West, a leading brand of canned tuna and salmon in the U.K., has launched an online tracker to help customers sniff out the origin of their fish.

Consumers can go to www.john-west.co.uk (screenshot above) and enter their barcode and can code to find out where their fish was caught.

BusinessGreen reports that the tracking tool will identify the fish’s origin right down to the boat that made the catch.

John West is using custom software, developed in-house, for the tracking website. Although this is the first time it has made such detailed information publicly available, managing director Paul Reenan said the company has been tracking its supply chain for the past ten years.

The company says it is the only U.K. and Ireland canned seafood manufacturer to wholly own a fleet of vessels, and that doing so gives it visibility over its whole fishing supply chain.

Writing recent for Environmental Leader, High Liner Foods corporate sustainability director Bill DiMento noted the importance of data accuracy and transparency to seafood supply chains.

“Using the most advanced traceability technologies available, processors can provide to their customers product-specific data, including what has been sold over a specific period of time, what the source fishery or aquaculture facility is, the Latin species name, and the ‘gear type, or method in which the fish was sourced,” DiMento said.

“Achieving this level of transparency and accuracy of data is a major undertaking, and will likely be the puzzle that keeps many company heads of sustainability awake at night.”

High Liner Foods said last December that it will source all of its seafood from certified sustainable or responsible fisheries and aquaculture farms by the end of 2013.

On its website, John West says its sustainability principles include:

  • Not fishing in areas where certain species are under threat from overfishing
  • Fully supporting the Pacific Commons Proposal, which will allow fish stocks to recover and help to boost the local economy
  • Sourcing fish from well-managed fisheries, which help to maintain stocks and protect ecosystems.

The company pledges that by the end of 2016, 100 per cent of its U.K. sales of tuna will be sourced from a mixture of pole and line, and purse seine catch methods, free from fish aggregation devices.

John West is a founding member of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, a collaboration of scientists, industry and NGOs, and works with the Marine Stewardship Council and Earth Island Institute.

The company says its range of salmon, mackerel and sardines will soon carry the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo, which commits to source these species from MSC certified fisheries.

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4 thoughts on “John West Customers Click to Trace their Tuna

  1. This should be lauded as exactly the commitment that needs to be shown by commercial companies. John West are showing absolute sincerity and incredible maturity.
    There are too many headlines in Environmental Leader about companies “saving” a thousand tonnes of this or ten thousand litres of that. It’s all lip service.
    Notice that John West are not saying how much this is costing them or how many tonnes of carbon they are “saving”. Here we have a company working properly and diligently for sustainability and food security.

    • That’s an interesting point of view, Christopher. How does a lack of claims about costs or savings make this a more laudable project? I would have thought projects that are fully and transparently costed, and whose benefits are quantified, would represent a more sustainable approach.
      Tamar Wilner
      Senior Editor

  2. Hi Tamar, thanks for picking up and responding to my comment.
    My comments stemmed from the fact that up until now there has been no adequate method to quantify the importance to the earth of biodiversity and food security. John West did not wait for a measure, they committed totally to sustaining the fish in the sea.
    Secondly, in purely monetary or commercial terms, environmental contributions are often unprofitable, unless you really understand the long term benefits of your contribution and are sophisticated enough to calculate Net Present Values and stuff.
    In other words, the world is facing such an emergency in terms of food, resources, biosafety, etc, that companies have got to have the guts to say, “we must do this”. OK, by all means budget the monetary cost, but if you try to justify it on a cost/benefit basis, the effort will be compromised and you will end up simply counting the carbon, rather than addressing the larger issues.
    I have to admit that the Environmental Leader headlines do annoy me, when they talk about saving so much of this or so much of that. The point we are interested in is how much these companies still use and why?
    At Terracopia (www.Terracopia.net) we have derived a common index for all environmental impacts, including food abundance and biodiversity and carbon emissions and all depletions caused by products, services and activities. I would be grateful if you or your readers could visit the site and let me have your comments. We are definitely out of tune with the orchestra but we believe the orchestra isn’t playing the complete music!

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