WORDING… Dutch Advertising Code Committee finds that Princes is “misleading consumers” with some of tuna cans sustainability claims

Below, unedited, is the latest (September 22, 2017) press release by the ‘On The Hook’ campaign:

DUTCH ADVERTISING STANDARDS AUTHORITY CONFIRMS PRINCES ARE “MISLEADING CONSUMERS”

LONDON – Today the Dutch Advertising Code Committee has found that Princes is “misleading consumers” through statements made on its tins of tuna which come from the unsustainable PNA fishery featuring the Marine Stewardship Council’s “blue tick” logo.

The Marine Stewardship Council has recently come under fire for certifying fisheries that allow unsustainable fishing.  The PNA fishery that the Princes product is from allows vessels and crew to use the same fishing nets one day to catch tuna sustainably – receiving the MSC certification – and then on the same day and during the same voyage, be hauling tuna along with turtles, sharks, juvenile tuna and other protected species unsustainably.

The Dutch Advertising Standards Committee confirmed that statements made on Princes tins of MSC Certified tuna were misleading to consumers.  The Committee recommended that Princes should stop using a number of statements on its tins, notwithstanding the fact that the wording is prescribed by the MSC under its Ecolabelling Licence Agreement with Princes.  Specifically, the Committee has recommended that Princes remove claims that “This product comes from a fishery that is independently certified according to the MSC standard for a well maintained and sustainable fishery. www.msc.org/nl”, as well as its declaration that “Princes collaborates with fishermen that are MSC certified and that are active for sustainable fishery. This tuna is caught responsibly, 100% traceable and MSC certified”.

Given that both sustainable and unsustainable catches of tuna are landed at the fishery, the Committee found that the language used by Princes conveys a message that the fishery as a whole is MSC certified and sustainable when that is not the case.  The Committee also found that Princes misled customers by stating that “by buying Princes fish with the MSC logo, you know for sure that you buy fish from a sustainable fishery”.

On The Hook, a campaign to stop the PNA from being re-certified, has uncovered that not only was the wording used by Princes prescribed by the MSC but that the MSC wrote to Princes prior to the hearing specifically confirming that the language used by Princes was accurate.  This decision is likely to have significant ramifications for the MSC.

Commenting on the decision from the Advertising Code Committee in the Netherlands, Frederic Le Manach, a spokesperson for On The Hook said:

“I am delighted by the committee’s ruling that Princes have made misleading claims to customers on their MSC certified tuna caught at the unsustainable PNA fishery. I hope that Princes learn from this error.

“Clearly this is a huge blow to the MSC who are looking to re-certify the PNA fishery this month. Princes have put their trust in the MSC, only to be hauled in front of the Advertising Committee and told they are misleading consumers for using wording prescribed and approved by the MSC. I am sure that retailers around the world will look to the situation Princes are in and question whether they can trust the MSC to ensure the sustainability of their product.

“The MSC must cancel the recertification on the PNA and change the standards so that retailers and customers can trust that the “blue tick” means the product is sourced from a wholly sustainable fishery.”

About On The Hook

Launched on the 30th August, On The Hook have asked the MSC to urgently review the standard which currently allows MSC-certified products to be caught alongside unsustainable methods of fishing – which puts the tuna fishing stock in the Pacific Ocean at great risk. On The Hook is also leading the campaign to stop the world’s largest fishery – the PNA – from being re-certified this month. On The Hook released research conducted by Populus which shows that consumers see the current practices of the PNA as unacceptable. 69 per cent assume that all fishing in MSC certified fisheries is sustainable. The polling data also shows that a majority of people would lose confidence in the MSC brand if they re-certified the PNA whilst the fishery continues to catch tuna in an unsustainable manner.

Quote from the Netherlands Advertising Code Committee:

After that the Committee confirmed that three claims that are misleading:

“This product comes from a fishery that is independently certified according to the MSC standard for a well maintained and sustainable fishery. www.msc.org/nl.”

“Princes collaborates with fishermen that are MSC certified and that are active for sustainable fishery. This tuna is caught responsibly, 100% traceable and MSC certified.”

“Thank you for buying Princes MSC tuna. By buying Princes fish with the MSC logo, you know for sure that you buy fish from a sustainable fishery. (…)”

The MSC guide on Eco-label   https://www.msc.org/documents/logo-use/msc-ecolabel-user-guide

“When the MSC ecolabel is used on a product, it must be accompanied by the MSC claim. The MSC Claim can go anywhere on the pack and is available in five versions.”

  1. Thank you for choosing seafood that has met the MSC’s global standard for sustainability. Together we can help protect fish stocks for the future.
  2. This product comes from a fishery that has been independently certified to the MSC’s standard for a well-managed and sustainable fishery.
  3. The {insert seafood specifies} in this product comes from a fishery that has been independently certified to the MSC’s standard for a well-managed and sustainable fishery.
  4. This seafood has met the MSC’s global standard for sustainability
  5. From an MSC certified sustainable fishery