The eco guide to tinned tuna – The Guardian

Whenever a sustainable seafood product reaches the shelves of UK stores I feel like doing a little dance. Step forward tinned tuna from Princes. Prosaic it may be, but it’s the first certified tuna from the Western Pacific wearing the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) blue tick.

Sustainable fish consumption is fiendishly complicated so the blue tick denotes a lot, including that a capture is Fad free. Fads (fish aggregating devices) are man-made floating objects, usually containing a solar device, that attract large amounts of fish but can harm other species including sharks and sea turtles.

Tuna represents 8% of all globally traded seafood, and thousands of vessels across the world are in relentless pursuit of them. Agreeing an international system with the world’s tuna fisheries is our best chance of saving the wild catch from depletion.

But, maddeningly, tins of tuna are billed as a choice for “eco-friendly consumers”. This suggests it’s a lifestyle preference. Actually, it’s an essential consideration if we want to stave off critical collapse of species vital to the livelihoods and wellbeing of millions of people.

The current strategy is doomed to failure. Researchers recently carried out polls asking German citizens (who are usually fans of eco products) whether they cared about the ethical considerations of fishing. Guess what? They didn’t.

I’m happy for anyone in search of higher standards to have more choice: for example Whole Foods sources all its tinned and fresh tuna from one-by-one fisheries (ie line caught).

But products conforming to baseline agreements should not be billed as the eco choice. They’re the only choice. It’s time retailers (and chefs) removed all non-sustainable fish from shelves and menus.

The big picture: save our hedgehogs

Making a point: hedgehogs are on the endangered list.
Making a point: hedgehogs are on the endangered list. Photograph: Tim Melling/Getty Images

Conservation science sometimes warns about comparing one ailing species to another, but let’s throw caution to the wind: hedgehogs are dying out as fast as wild tigers. In an effort to teach us how to help, Brian May has invited wildlife presenter Steve Backshall and a Channel 5 film crew into the Amazing Grace Animal Sanctuary he runs with wildlife activist Anne Brummer. Watch Meet the Hedgehogs on C5 on 13 June.

Well dressed: cleaning up cotton

Facing the future: we need a cleaner, more environmentally friendly alternative to cotton.
Facing the future: we need a cleaner, more environmentally friendly alternative to cotton. Photograph: Brian Doben/Getty Images

Although cotton is a prolific natural textile (with more than 20 million tonnes produced in over 100 countries each year), its environmental footprint is dire. It takes 2,720 litres of water to make just one T-shirt and while cotton only covers 2.4% of the world’s arable land, it accounts for 6% of global pesticide use. Taking on these ‘significant challenges’ is a project called Cotton 2040, where brands, farmers, NGOs, the fashion industry and even cotton brokers have been brought together by the environmental NGO Forum for the Future, to weave a cleaner, sustainable alternative.

The goal is to make sustainable cotton a mainstream commodity. Even Prince Charles has joined the debate, recently hosting one of a series of sustainable cotton meetings. forumforthefuture.org

Email Lucy at lucy.siegle@observer.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @lucysiegle