Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VII No. 4 October 1998

Tuna-Dolphin Update

by Kate O'Connell, CSI Board

One of the key components of the 1997 International Dolphin Conservation Program Act passed by Congress was the call for the development of a monitoring and tracking program for yellowfin tuna caught in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO):

"The Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, shall issue regulations to implement this legislation, including regulations to establish a domestic tracking and verification system that provides for the effective tracking of tuna labeled [as dolphin safe]...the Secretary may make such adjustments as may be appropriate to the regulations promulgated under this sub-section to implement an international tracking and verification program that meets or exceeds the[se] requirements...."

As consumers become more and more concerned about the origin of the products they are buying, and the nature of the processes involved in the production of those products, it is becoming clear that such tracking systems are a necessary part of doing business for any corporation. Even more importantly, it is critical that any systems developed that can track and monitor consumer goods - including tuna - must be absolutely open to public scrutiny.

The term transparency is one that is becoming a real buzz-word for conservation groups worldwide. If a system is closed, and does not allow for the public's right-to-know, then such a system is not transparent. All of the conservation and animal welfare organizations lobbying the IATTC, have fought long and hard to see that the IATTC and its meetings are as transparent as possible. Such has been the case, and it would be a shame if this transparency were not to be followed upon with the tracking of tuna products.

As tuna moves through the chain of production, that is to say, from ship to shelf, there should be the possibility for an independent audit of this production process. Such is already the case with many tuna canners in their hygiene and quality controls - so the dolphin-safe label requirements should be dealt with in the same manner. If a company wants to be able to affix a dolphin-safe label, it must be willing to adhere to an independent inspection system for its products. Otherwise, consumer confidence in tuna will not be met.

As the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the U.S. government attempt to come to grips with the development of a tuna tracking system, it is urgent that consumers make known their concerns about any tuna labeling system. CSI urges its members and readers to contact the big U.S. tuna canners - Chicken of the Sea, BumbleBee and StarKist - to let them know that they will only purchase tuna that can be tracked in a way that IS open to public scrutiny.

P.O. Box 85362
San Diego, CA 92186
Tel: 619-715-4000
Fax: 619-560-6045

Chicken of the Sea
P.O. Box 85568
San Diego, CA 92138
Tel: 619-558-9662
Fax: 619-597-4574

Corporate Affairs
H. J. Heinz
P.O. Box 57
Pittsburgh, PA 15230
Tel: 412-456-6000

Also send a message to William Hogarth, U.S. Commissioner to the IATTC:

Southwest Fisheries Center
8604 La Jolla Shores Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037
Tel: 619-546-7000

Go to next article: Mitsubishi Threatens Gray Whales or: Table of Contents.

© Copyright 1998, Cetacean Society International, Inc.

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