Protecting Our Oceans Together

by John West 03/06/2022

Food and Drink, Sponsored Content, Tinned Food

This is a sponsored article from Sustainable Choice verified member John West.

State of Play: Our Ocean Our Future

How a 10-year partnership between WWF-Australia and John West is helping to safeguard our oceans and fish supplies.

Meeting the global challenge

Fish and seafood are important sources of protein for around 3.3 billion people across the globe. It’s the largest traded food commodity in the world. And global consumption is projected to increase by 31 million tonnes over the next decade1.

Our oceans and fish species are facing increasing pressure to meet this demand. For example, 34.2% of the world’s fish stocks are estimated to be fished at unsustainable levels. And the incidental catch of non-target species (known as “bycatch”) can impact other marine wildlife.

As the world’s population continues to grow, farmed seafood will play a big part in meeting this global demand and taking the pressure off our oceans.

For these reasons, it’s imperative the industry moves to a future that has responsibly sourced seafood at the heart of every decision. Not just to protect our oceans and the incredible diversity of marine life that call it home – but to ensure we have access to healthy food for generations to come.

That’s why WWF-Australia and Simplot Australia’s John West brand are proud to celebrate a 10-year partnership that has not only transformed the company’s seafood supply chain, but has pioneered change across the whole seafood industry.

“At John West we’re continuing to raise the sustainability bar even higher, above and beyond canned tuna products. We only accept the best: if we can’t find a responsibly sourced species, then we take action to work with WWF and fishers to find solutions.”

Phoebe Dowling, Head of Sustainability, Simplot Australia

What is responsible seafood?

Responsible seafood comes from fisheries or aquaculture operations that don’t threaten the survival of fish populations or damage the environment. This means making sure that aquatic ecosystems thrive alongside well-managed fisheries. Fish are caught or farmed using best-practice methods that reduce impacts on wildlife, including threatened species, and important habitats like coral reefs and mangroves.

Independent third party standards such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) are recognised global benchmarks for assessing the environmental performance of wild-capture fisheries and farmed seafood. Certification schemes can be used as a tool alongside other approaches, including improving regulation and policies, traceability initiatives and voluntary corporate action. Continual monitoring of implementation, evaluation and improvements helps ensure these standards and approaches are robust and based on the current, best-available science.

Wild caught and farmed seafood: what’s the difference?

Wild caught seafood is caught in natural environments like oceans, lakes and rivers. Farmed seafood (aquaculture) is bred and harvested in controlled environments, like sea-cages in the ocean or land-based tanks and ponds. In 2014, farmed seafood for human consumption exceeded wild caught seafood for the first time. WWF’s goal is that wild caught and farmed seafood is harvested or produced with minimal environmental impacts while meeting the increased demand from an ever growing world population.

Ground-breaking partnership

Back in 2012, WWF-Australia and John West formed a partnership to work collaboratively to support John West’s commitment to source all seafood products from responsible sources.

As part of this partnership, WWF-Australia has provided recommendations on sustainable seafood sourcing strategies, along with expert advice on environmental risks in the seafood supply chain. WWF-Australia has also supported John West’s transition towards increasing the volume of responsibly sourced seafood by helping to identify solutions and alternatives.

Throughout this time, John West has made big changes to the supply chain and fishing practices of suppliers.

WWF-Australia has also provided employee education sessions and helped raise awareness of the vital work and support that John West has provided to conservation projects.

Significant achievements

As the largest branded supplier of seafood products in Australia, John West’s achievements have made a significant impact on Australia’s seafood supply chain, and on the global stage.

After years of hard work behind the scenes, John West in Australia was the first brand in the world to shift to using 100% Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified for all skipjack tuna products within their shelf-seafood range. Since then, on average more than 80 million cans of John West MSC tuna have been consumed by Australians each year.

In 2019, John West won the MSC sustainable seafood brand of the year award, with over 60% of its total shelf seafood range being MSC certified and traceable. John West continues to ensure all products are responsibly sourced and is working towards having full traceability for all products.

John West has also contributed more than $1 million to support WWF-Australia’s conservation projects in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. WWF-Australia, the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and John West Australia are supporting work that is helping protect precious reef ecosystems, along with creating food security and economic opportunities for local communities.

Together, WWF-Australia and John West have spearheaded a campaign to educate consumers about how to make responsible seafood choices. These results are a testament to what can be achieved when a market leader and the world’s largest conservation organisation choose to work together for the good of our planet.

Advocacy in action: the road to sustainable food

The journey to sustainability and ongoing enhancements to sustainability practices and certification programs like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) play a key role in moving the global seafood industry towards sustainability. Such standards are important tools, often providing the initial steps to drive improvements in wild-caught fisheries and aquaculture farming practices. WWF-Australia is committed to advancing sustainable seafood by encouraging companies to source seafood from responsibly managed fisheries and seafood farms.

Working together, WWF-Australia and John West can drive sustained improvements in the health of the world’s oceans. By engaging with players across the whole seafood chain and through scientific and sustainability approaches, we can devise new strategies that continue to ensure seafood is responsibly sourced.

“A commitment to sustainability means intensive behind-the-scenes supply chain audits, sustainability improvements and a program of rolling implementations. It’s a serious investment to ensure the fish we enjoy today are there tomorrow.”

Dr. Krista Singleton-Cambage, Head of Climate & Food Security, WWF-Australia

Leading change in the industry

For 10 years, the John West and WWF- Australia partnership has been a catalyst to drive change and promote responsible fishing practices across the region. Working together, this partnership has made a difference in how seafood is sourced and made available to consumers in Australia. This commitment and demonstrated leadership will be critical in continuing to drive industry-wide change. John West and WWF-Australia will continue to raise awareness about the need to protect all marine life and ensure that the seafood on supermarket shelves has been caught and processed responsibly.

Technical achievements

In 2016, John West transitioned their canned skipjack tuna sourcing to third-party MSC certified fisheries, which today is 30% of Australia’s canned tuna market and on average: 80 MILLION CANS ANNUALLY

With this leadership, their partner, Pacifical, managed to not only improve the environmental credentials of their tuna source fisheries, and also delivered increased social benefits to the communities in Parties to the Nauru Agreement. (e.g. offered employment opportunities, brought additional wealth to these communities)

They were one of the first companies in the world to work with their supplier to develop a model to successfully make this transition, which took years to come to fruition:

John West successfully encouraged their source oyster farms to become third-party ASC certified.

John West ceased sourcing from ecologically high-risk anchovy sources to a credible fisheries improvement project.

How to be a conscious consumer

As a consumer, you can make a choice to buy and eat responsibly sourced seafood. Choosing responsibly sourced seafood not only helps to look after our oceans, it also helps the communities that depend on them for food and income.

Every time you purchase responsibly sourced seafood like John West products, you are encouraging other companies to lift their game and driving them to source responsible seafood.

Your choices and actions can make all the difference. Here are a few ways to be a more conscious consumer.

  1. Be informed
    Get to know what you’re eating. Ask where your seafood comes from and how it was caught or farmed. All too often, we don’t know enough about the food we are eating. Start to become informed, aware and ask questions.
  2. Making better seafood choices
    So many products lay claim to being sustainable, responsible or environmentally-friendly, but are they really? Make sure to check what’s behind the brand and the marketing claim. Is there any evidence to back this up? Look for labels to see if this is based on any independent standard or certification, such as Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified products. Making conscious choices to buy and eat responsibly sourced and produced seafood, contributes to the long-term health of our oceans and environment.
  3. Support retailers and brands that supply responsibly sourced seafood
    Shop or dine at places that sell certified responsible seafood. Tell your favourite grocer and restaurants that you prefer responsibly sourced seafood. Adding your voice to the call will encourage other suppliers and businesses to follow suit. Write to or email the big retailers telling them you only want to see responsibly sourced seafood on the shelves.
  4. Eat a variety of seafood
    Choose to eat a more diverse range of seafood. If you try to eat a wider variety of seafood from responsible sources you can help to reduce pressure on the most popular species. There are many different types of fish and seafood to choose from.

1 UN FAO State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World

by John West

This a sponsored post published on behalf of John West.