WTO orders change in "dolphin safe"

GENEVA,  Switzerland–A World Trade Organization panel on September 15,  2011 ruled that the qualifications required for “dolphin-safe” tuna certification,  enforced by the U.S. Commerce Department,  “are more trade-restrictive than necessary” to inform buyers as to whether dolphins were harmed in tuna fishing.

The WTO panel “said the labels protect dolphins in U.S. waters,  but ‘only partially fulfill’ that goal elsewhere,”  summarized John Heilprin of Associated Press.  “But the panel rejected Mexico’s claim that its tuna products are treated differently than those of the U.S. or other nations,”  Heilprin said.  The U.S. dolphin-safe tuna standard was set by Congress in 1990.  Several U.S. Commerce Secretaries have sought to weaken it,  following a similar ruling by a predecessor to the WTO panel,  but U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco ruled five times between 2000 and 2004 that as Congress stipulated,  “Dolphin-safe shall continue to mean that ‘no tuna were caughtŠusing a purse seine net intentionally deployed on or to encircle dolphins,  and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured,'” on the voyage that caught the tuna.

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