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Captain Statement Insufficient Assurance For Reliable “Dolphin Safe United States, April 11, 13

Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce released draft regulations to comply with last year’s WTO ruling on the use of the dolphin-safe label on tuna products. According to the campaign of eco-safe tuna the current dolphin-safe label fails to adequately ensure consumers that no dolphins were harmed in the capture of tuna bearing the label. While the proposed draft regulations acknowledge this reality, they do not protect dolphins or provide consumers with accurate information.

According to eco-safe tuna the WTO found that the U.S. dolphin-safe label does not inform consumers about the killing of dolphins in any of the world’s tuna fisheries other than the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Ocean, “even if dolphins have in fact been killed or seriously injured during the trip.” Consequently, consumers are deprived of information about dolphin mortalities for more than 95 percent of the tuna labeled dolphin-safe that is sold in the United States today.

“The NOAA draft regulations do not rectify the failings of the current labeling regime. Congress, in enacting the 1997 International Dolphin Conservation Program Act (IDCPA), specified that any alternative dolphin-safe label used in the U.S. market must be backed by independent proof that no dolphins were harmed or killed, supported by 100 percent observer coverage and a robust and specific tracking and verification system based on the one in place in the ETP. The central truth is that for the past twenty years the major tuna companies, StarKist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee, have been using alternative dolphin-safe labels that do not comply with these mandates, creating false expectations for consumers”.
“For tuna caught outside the ETP, the proposed regulations do not offer any real protections for dolphins or consumers. Specifically, they call only for a captain’s self-certification that no dolphins were killed or injured in the capture of the tuna. This puts the power of dolphin-safe designation solely in the hands of an economically self-interested party – the captain of the vessel”.
The draft regulations would perpetuate the deficient standards for tracking and verification requirements for alternative dolphin-safe labels currently in use. They would hide from consumers the fact that tens of thousands of dolphins are killed each year in non-ETP tuna fisheries around the world. As a result, this dolphin-deadly tuna would continue to be labeled dolphin-safe.
The draft regulations do nothing to correct the current consumer deception as to the true dolphin-safe status of tuna bearing the dolphin-safe label. Consumers will not be provided any additional assurances that the tuna they consume was caught without harm to dolphins.
The current U.S. law should be amended to bring the dolphin-safe labeling rules in line with consumer expectations that have developed over the past twenty years. The law must allow for the more stringent and eco-safe AIDCP standard and give consumers for the first time a choice and the full information necessary to make an educated purchasing decision.
The Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna is an international effort committed to a more sustainable approach to tuna fishing. Among the principal backers of the Campaign are the companies that comprise Mexico’s tuna fleet, who for the past 20 years have dedicated themselves to supporting the successful multilateral effort to reduce dolphin mortalities in the ETP by more than 99% and ensuring that the ETP remains a sustainable and eco-safe fishery with a minimum amount of bycatch. Another principal sponsor of the Campaign is the Organizacion Latinoamericana de Desarrollo Pesquero (OLDEPESCA), an organization made up of the fisheries ministers or State Secretaries with responsibility for fisheries in the twelve fishing nations that are members.