“Dolphin-safe” tuna labeling law may go to top U.S. courts
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2002:
NEW YORK, N.Y.–The “dolphin-safe” tuna labeling issue may
be headed to the U.S. Court of Appeals and perhaps the U.S. Supreme
Court, after Court of International Trade judge Judith Barzilay on
December 7, 2001 ruled again–as she did in April 2000–that the
revised “dolphin-safe” tuna standard imposed by the 1997
International Dolphin Conservation Program Act has been correctly
followed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The Barzilay verdicts conflict with an April 2000 ruling by
Thelton E. Henderson, chief judge of the Federal District Court in
San Francisco. Despite the April 2000 Henderson verdict, which came
shortly after Barzilay’s first ruling, the relaxed “dolphin-safe”
standard took effect one day later.
Henderson decided a case brought by Earth Island Institute
and co-plaintiffs. Barzilay ruled on a parallel case brought by
Defenders of Wildlife et al.
Henderson in May 1990 banned imports of yellowfin tuna from
Mexico, Venezuela, and Vanuatu, under a set of 1988 amendments to
the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, and in January 1992 invoked
the same law to ban $266 million worth of tuna imports from 30
From Henderson’s 1990 ruling until April 2000, “dolphin
safe” labels designated tuna caught by means not killing any dolphins.
In 1995, however, a General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs
panel held that “dolphin safe” labeling law was a “process standard,”
a type of regulation often used to protect industries against foreign
competition, and that it violated the GATT treaty. Congress then
amended the “dolphin safe” law to allow tuna to be netted “on
dolphin,” if dolphin deaths are kept below 5,000 per year. The toll
is largely self-reported by tuna fishers.