Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. IX No. 2 - April 2000

Tuna/Dolphin Update

By Kate O'Connell, CSI Board

In 1997 changes in U.S. legislation proposed lifting a U.S. embargo on foreign tuna (mainly Mexican, Venezuelan and Colombian) caught with dolphins in encircling nets and would let the dolphin-safe label apply to those catches unless the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service found that the practice 'significantly harmed dolphins'. As Whales Alive! readers will recall, last April the U.S. Secretary of Commerce ruled that the Eastern Pacific tuna fleet was not causing such significant harm to dolphins, and a proposed change in the dolphin safe definition could soon take place. The labeling practice is scheduled to be implemented April 11, when the U.S. Commerce Department plans to allow tuna caught by Mexican boats to carry a dolphin-safe label as long as observers on the boats see no dolphins killed or injured in the encircling nets.

However, on April 3rd, just as Whales Alive! goes to print, several U.S. environmental groups faced off against the U.S. government in court, asking U.S. Federal District Judge Thelton Henderson to preclude the Clinton administration from changing the current definition of "dolphin-safe" tuna (no nets set on dolphins at all) to allow tuna caught with dolphins that are netted and released.

The U.S. Congress first restricted dolphin kills by U.S. tuna boats in 1972 and later imposed similar restrictions on foreign fleets that wished to export tuna to the United States. Judge Henderson is no newcomer to the debate; it was based on his rulings in the early nineties that caused the embargoes to be implemented against foreign tuna. The ruling is expected soon; please watch the CSI web site for further updates on the subject.

Go to next article: Whale-Watching in Vava'u, Tonga or: Table of Contents.

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