New Rule Would Resolve WTO Decision on Dolphin Safe Label
By Mark J. Palmer
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) is celebrating a new federal fisheries rule that would extend current protections for dolphins to other tuna fisheries around the world. By doing so, the rule would improve reporting on the safety of dolphins while also resolving a bitter World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute between the governments of the US and Mexico. The rule was finalized by the Obama Administration and will go into effect on July 13th.
A copy of the new rule can be found here.
“This rule helps protect dolphins by requiring tuna fishermen to confirm that dolphins were not chased, netted, or captured in nets,” stated David Phillips, Executive Director of IMMP. “It makes the rule uniform throughout all tuna fisheries.”
The rule further requires reporting of any dead or seriously injured dolphins in purse seine nets and other fishing gear used for tuna, a relatively rare event as long as the tuna fishermen don’t deliberately target dolphin pods. Such tuna must be kept separate from Dolphin Safe tuna and cannot be labeled as “Dolphin Safe.”
In the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP), tuna regularly swim with dolphins. Some fishermen target dolphins to catch the tuna, injuring and drowning thousands of dolphins every year. To qualify to use a Dolphin Safe tuna label in the US, tuna companies must provide statements from boat captains and from onboard observers that no dolphins were chased or netted during fishing operations. Mexico, which continues to target and kill dolphins in its fishing operations, objected to the WTO that these requirements single out Mexico’s tuna fishing industry.
By broadening the rule to cover other oceans of the world beyond the ETP, the US National Marine Fisheries Service rule addresses the WTO dispute by requiring uniform verification information from all tuna fishermen for Dolphin Safe tuna. The proposal will also put more pressure on tuna fishermen to avoid accidental injury and deaths of dolphins in tuna nets and other gear outside the ETP.
More than 90% of the world’s tuna is caught without targeting dolphins. Only Mexico, Venezuela and Colombian tuna fishermen continue to chase and net dolphins in order to catch the tuna that swim beneath, killing and harming thousands of dolphins annually.
“Thousands of dolphins continue to be killed in tuna nets. So weakening the US Dolphin Safe tuna standards was not an option,” added Phillips. “Mexico’s ploy to force the US to allow Mexican dolphin-deadly tuna to be labeled Dolphin Safe is thankfully being rejected.”
For further information on Dolphin Safe tuna, Earth Island’s tuna monitoring program, and a list of companies worldwide that adhere to Earth Island’s strong Dolphin Safe tuna standards, go to: www.DolphinSafe.org