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Time Of Truth For US Dolphin Safe Logos United States, April 10, 13

New proposed legislation historic opportunity to remove logos from canned tuna
New proposed NMFS USA legislation provides the US Big Three tuna companies, together with leading NGO’s -after 22 years- the opportunity to once and for all inform US consumers accurately about the truth on Dolphin Safe. The truth being that the tuna in their cans is a skipjack (light meat) or an albacore (white meat) and that neither of these two tuna species are ever caught associated with dolphins. They could start this process by removing the many different dolphin safe logos from all tuna cans containing skipjack, albacore or tonggol tuna.
Last Friday, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service proposed rules that would expand the certification requirements for any tuna that is labeled as dolphin safe. This follows after the World Trade Organization found last year that U.S. labeling requirements for dolphin safe tuna put Mexican tuna fishermen at a trade disadvantage.
In the proposed legislation the NMFS lays down the standards, which distributors who show a dolphin safe logo on their tuna must follow, either be it canned, pouched, or frozen product. Those who do not use a dolphin safe logo or do not make any dolphin safe claims are not affected by the proposed rules.
After 22 years of dolphin research, reports by RFMO’s, and “monitoring” programs by dolphin activists, we know that dolphins swim only in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean ( ETP) together with schools of mature yellowfin. In those two decades dolphin activists claim they have consistently checked and monitored hundreds of tuna fishing and processing companies all over the world, fishing for skipjack and yellowfin and the reports on their website have shown that they never found any other association than that in the ETP yellowfin purse seine fisheries. So no association of dolphins with any skipjack or albacore has ever been documented, and never have any purse seiner nets targeting skipjack or albacore tuna been intentionally set on schools of dolphins.
This has also been confirmed for all those years by the US Secretary of Commerce, since he is the one who through the 1990 dolphin safe regulations has the obligation to identify any purse seine fishery that has a regular and significant association between dolphins and tuna similar to the ETP (surprisingly the word yellowfin is nowhere mentioned in the 1990 legislation, neither in the newly proposed legislation). The Secretary never identified any other fisheries, any other fishing method, any other fishing area or ocean, of any other tuna species in all those years.
From 1990 onwards in order to sell tuna from the ETP with a dolphin safe logo on the can, it had to be accompanied by a captain’s and also an observer‘s statement that no dolphins were intentionally encircled during the trip and no dolphins were killed or seriously injured during the set. If it was tuna from outside the ETP only a certificate signed by the captain himself would do, since everybody knew there were no problems there anyway. So in fact for those areas and species certification was totally unneeded. It would be comparable to requiring a captain of a purse seiner vessel fishing for salmon, sardines or mackerel to certify that he did not intentionally encircle any dolphins.
So everybody within the US tuna industry, the US government, and the US NGO community knew that there were no problems with dolphins, skipjack and albacore. Just as there was no association between dolphins salmon, sardines or mackerel, but nobody cared to inform the public. Instead households for decades were made to believe that efforts all over the world were made to save dolphin from being caught in tuna nets, when in fact absolutely no problem ever existed with skipjack and albacore and therefore nothing had to be done to protect dolphins in these fisheries.
Now because the WTO wants every country to be treated equally, the NMFS is proposing to expand the US standards for putting a dolphin safe label on tuna. Also this new proposal does not make any distinction on the species, but now it even removes the criteria on the fishing gear used or where the tuna was caught. So if the NMFS gets it their way for all tuna products labeled dolphin safe, fishing boat captains and any on-board observers would have to certify that “no dolphins were killed or seriously injured.” So simply the captain certifying himself no longer goes, also an observer has to be present, and a system on the boat must be implemented to keep the tuna separated, which must be maintained throughout the entire supply chain.
This new heavier standard is going to create an enormous amount of extra work for the US government, the US tuna industry, tuna importers, distributors, fishing companies, and government officials all over the world. All for a problem that does not exists with skipjack and albacore tuna, which represents 99% of the canned tuna in the United States.

Perhaps a simpler and much more effective approach would be just to remove the wide variety of misleading dolphin safe logos (making the need for these new proposed standards redundant) and start telling consumers the truth. Light meat skipjack and white meat albacore do not associate with dolphins and never have. NGO’s who say they have monitored dolphin fisheries intensively can support the industry in a public nationwide campaign of telling the American public that the dolphin safe problem is solved and therefore no longer any efforts need to be made to prevent something that does not occur. Just as no effort needs to be made to create new world-wide certification programs for dolphin safe salmon, sardines or mackerel.
Such a campaign would send out a very positive message, and take away the negative image that keeps being connected to all tuna. Positive news is something that the US Big Three brands really need in a market with consistently declining consumer interest for their canned skipjack and albacore. By removing the dolphin safe logo, and adding some text on their label telling the scientific facts, they would do themselves and the US consumers a huge favor.
The WTO and Mexico can be satisfied by limiting the legislation to only yellowfin tuna coming from the ETP, instead of all tuna species. And also by applying these same standards to all yellowfin from other areas, and other methods, that are labeled dolphin safe. This would remove any discrimination against Mexican tuna. It also would cause a minimal impact for the US canned tuna industry since hardly any yellowfin is consumed in cans or pouches. Frozen yellowfin tuna steaks might be affected, but “fresh tuna” has always been excluded from these rules, so that would remain unchanged.
This is a major historic chance for the Big Three to end a myth. The three US national tuna brands StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea who say they are now strongly committed to sustainability through their International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). The foundation advocates a science based approach. Science that has proven that no association exists between albacore, skipjack and dolphins. The ISSF could fulfill an important role in removing the dolphin safe logo from the label, and replacing it with a logo that tells consumers that their tuna is truly sustainable. A logo that guarantees that not only dolphins, but also sharks, turtles, and other by-catch species are saved; certified, not just by the captain himself, but by a solid independent and reliable certification scheme with observers on-board. A scheme also applied to sustainable salmon, sardines and mackerel, not just “tuna”.