Earth Island again tries to save dolphins
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2003:
SAN FRANCISCO–Earth Island Institute and six other
environmental and animal protection groups on February 12 applied for
a federal injunction against a December 31 rule change by the
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration which would allow U.S.
firms to market tuna netted “on dolphin” as “dolphin-safe,” if no
dolphins are known to have been killed during the netting.
The injunction application takes the “dolphin-safe” issue
back into the same court where chief judge Thelton 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 nations.
Introduced by Congress in 1990, in reinforcement of the first
Henderson verdict, the “dolphin-safe” label has until now denoted
tuna caught by methods other than netting “on dolphin,” the method
preferred by Latin American tuna fishers. The Latin American tuna
industry has contended since 1990 that discriminating against imports
of tuna netted “on dolphin” amounts to trade protectionism on behalf
of the U.S. fleet.
Netting tuna “on dolphin” works because dolphins and tuna
feed on the same fish species and often swim together in search of
schools to attack. Tuna fishers therefore scan the seas for dolphin
activity, then enclose pods of feeding dolphins with purse seines of
many miles in length. Although dolphins can easily jump out of the
purse seines as they begin to close, they typically do not.
As many as 350,000 dolphins per year were drowned in the nets
or crushed in winches before the introduction of the “dolphin-safe”
label and the legal exclusion of tuna netted “on dolphin” from the
Since then, the Latin American tuna industry claims to have
cut the “on dolphin” netting toll to 2,000-3,000 dolphins per year.
A General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs panel in 1995 held
that the U.S. “dolphin safe” law was an improper trade barrier. The
law was eased by the 1997 International Dolphin Conservation Program
Act, but Henderson and U.S. Court of International Trade judge
Judith Barzilay issued contradictory verdicts when then-Commerce
Secretary William Daley moved to admit non-“dolphin-safe” tuna to the
After successor Donald Evans issued the December 31 rule
change, the Commerce Department agreed to delay implementation for
90 days to allow legal challenges.
The three leading U.S. tuna retailers, Starkist, Chicken of
the Sea International, and Bumble Bee, said they would continue to
abide by the 1990 definition of “dolphin-safe.”
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), who as a member
of the House co-authored the 1990 “dolphin-safe” labeling bill,
pledged to introduce legislation to re-establish the original