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New Obama Ruling On Dolphin Safe Tuna Opposed By US Fleet

Following a long running dispute between Mexico and the US, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled the US government to change its legislation surrounding the dolphin safe practices of its tuna fisheries which has followed this week with the announcement of the strengthening of its tuna fishing regulations.
The new enforcement from the Obama administration applies to all canned tuna sold in the US by all gear types and caught anywhere globally, and will come into action on July 13 2013, and give a six month period of education to provide the fishing industry with guidance on new enforcement.
The Obama government has imposed heightened dolphin safe regulations that rule the non-encirclement of dolphins, the reporting of mortality or injury to dolphins and the separation of any tuna catch associated with the injury of a dolphin within the US. These new principles reflect the standards as the Earth Island Institute’s (EII) ‘Dolphin Safe’ program had already required all US tuna brands to meet for the last 2 decades.
Regardless to the fact that the new legislation replaced the need for existing measures, the EII issued a press release that supported the decision of the US government, in which Mark Palmer, Associate Director said: “The rule would improve reporting on the safety of dolphins while resolving a bitter World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute between the governments of the US and Mexico.” The release did not specify how dolphins would benefit from the new rule.
Despite strong objections from US fleet owners against the initial proposals from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the ruled legislation shows no change from the original plans. These fleets opposed the strengthened legislation regardless of the fact that for many years they have been working under the list of EII ‘Dolphin Safe’ vessels, whose principals have been mirrored in the new ruling.
In a publically accessible letter to the NOAA based on the initial proposals, the American Tunaboat Association (ATA) said: “The ATA does not deny that, on rare occasions, a dolphin may be harmed during fishing operations in the Western Pacific.” As suppliers to major US tuna brands listed by the EII as ‘Dolphin Safe’, ATA admit that injury to dolphins has occurred, although no EII data has ever reported on these events.
This admittance suggests that tuna caught in association to the harming of dolphins by US tuna boat owners had not been reported nor separated on board from the rest of the catch, as the EII measures strictly prescribe, and instead the vessel had self-certified itself as complying with the regulations and the tuna had possibly go on to be sold as ‘Dolphin Safe.’
The Mexican government also objected the heightened regulations, pointing to the issue of self-certification, and the lack of an eco system approach. A source close to the Mexican government said: “From Mexico’s perspective this decision by the US administration is just as bad as the earlier proposal of NOAA.”
Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer praised the decision and said: “Numerous times over the last 20 years the Dolphin-Safe tuna label has been in great jeopardy, and this new rule will help ensure that the label that customers have come to trust and rely on is protected.” This comment suggests her realization of the questioned compliance to the previous regulations based on self-certification.
Statistics show however, that over the last 20 years numbers of dolphin mortalities in the Eastern Central Pacific, the only area in which the problem has ever existed, has sustained at a dramatically decreased level, not only suggesting the redundancy of the EII regulations, but also the new legislation imposed in the US.