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AIDCP (Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program) A legally binding, multilateral agreement on dolphin conservation and ecosystem management in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Ocean, which entered into force in 1999 with the following objectives:

  • To progressively reduce incidental dolphin mortalities in the tuna purse-seine fishery in the Agreement Area to levels approaching zero, through the setting of annual limits;
  • With the goal of eliminating dolphin mortality in this fishery, to seek ecologically sound means of capturing large yellowfin tunas not in association with dolphins; and
  • To ensure the long-term sustainability of the tuna stocks in the Agreement Area, as well as that of the marine resources related to this fishery, taking into consideration the interrelationship among species in the ecosystem, with special emphasis on, inter alia, avoiding, reducing or minimizing bycatch and discards of juvenile tunas and non-target species.

The AIDCP is implemented and staffed by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. States which have ratified or acceded to the Agreement are: Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, the EU, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, United States, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

Backdown Procedure A procedure designed to ensure dolphins are safely released from a net prior to removing the tuna from the water. During the procedure, the fishing vessel pulls the net in a sweeping arc, which causes the net to form an elongated channel. Water pressure causes the back of the specially designed net to drop below the surface of the water and allow dolphins to escape. Trained divers and small boats inside the net help ensure the safe release of dolphins. The AIDCP and U.S. law require the performance of a backdown procedure.

DPCIA (Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act) An amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 which supports the International Dolphin Conservation Program (IDCP) and management of tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Ocean. The Act established the definition of “dolphin-safe” and effectively banned tuna from the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Ocean caught in association with dolphins.

ETP (Eastern Tropical Pacific) One of twelve marine realms that cover the shallow oceans of the world. The ETP extends along the Pacific Coast of the Americas, from the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula in the north to northern Peru in the south. It also includes a number of islands and island groups, including the Galapagos, Revillagigedo, Cocos and Clipperton. It is the only area in the world where current U.S. “dolphin-safe” tuna labeling practices are applied. For a map of the ETP, please click here.

Fisheries Certificate of Origin (NOAA Form 370) A form required to accompany all imports of frozen and/or processed tuna products and submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the time of importation. For the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Ocean, the form requires certification, under the AIDCP tracking and verification system, that no dolphins were encircled, killed or seriously injured. For tuna caught anywhere else in the world, the captain of the vessel is only required to self-certify that no dolphins were encircled. There is no requirement to certify that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured.

FAD (fish aggregating device) A man-made object used to attract ocean going pelagic fish such as tuna. They usually consist of buoys or floats sometimes tethered to the ocean floor with concrete block, but often floating free with satellite transmitters. Over 300 species of fish gather beneath and around FADs. FADs FADs attract fish for numerous reasons that vary by species, but also juvenile tuna, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, billfish, seabirds and other non-targeted marine animals. When a fishing vessel sets its nets in and around FADs, they capture and often kill most of these sea creatures. FADs have been criticized by environmental groups around the world, including Greenpeace and Pew Environment Group, for their devastating effects on the sustainability of fisheries, given their extremely high levels of bycatch.

GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) A multilateral agreement regulating international trade. According to its preamble, its purpose was the “substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers  and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis.” It was negotiated during the UN Conference on Trade and Employment and was the outcome of the failure of negotiating governments to create the International Trade Organization (ITO). GATT was signed in 1947 and lasted until 1994, when it was replaced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. The original GATT text (GATT 1948) is still in effect under the WTO framework, subject to the modifications of GATT 1994.

IATTC (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission) An international commission responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Ocean. The overall objective of the Commission is to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fish stocks covered by the 1949 Convention for the Establishment of an Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, in accordance with the relevant rules of international law. The IATTC Secretariat and scientific staff also support the operations of the AIDCP.

IDCPA (International Dolphin Conservation Program Act) A 1997 amendment to the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act of 1990 (codified as part of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act). It is the U.S. implementation of its obligations under the international Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), to which the U.S. is a signatory. The IDCPA was intended to rationalize the U.S. dolphin-safe policy by changing it from a focus on the method of fishing to one which actually focused on whether or not dolphins were harmed. This change was subsequently blocked by legal challenges by special interest groups. Among other things, the IDCPA directed the National Marine Fisheries Service to conduct studies to determine “whether the intentional deployment on or encirclement of dolphins with purse seine nets is having a significant adverse impact on any depleted dolphin stock in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.” The act required a preliminary report in 1999 and a final report in 2002. A series of reports and papers supported the final summary report.

MMPA (Marine Mammal Protection Act) The first act of Congress to call specifically for an ecosystem approach to natural resource management and conservation. It was signed into law on October 21, 1972 by President Richard Nixon. MMPA prohibits the taking of marine mammals, and enacts a moratorium on the import, export and sale of any marine mammal, along with any marine mammal part or product within the United States. The MMPA provides for enforcement of its prohibitions, and for the issuance of regulations to implement its legislative goals.

NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) An agreement signed by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Canada. NAFTA has two supplements: the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC).

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) A scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere. NOAA warns of dangerous weather, charts seas and skies, guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, and conducts research to improve understanding and stewardship of the environment.

WTO (World Trade Association) An organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948. The organization deals with regulation of trade between participating countries. It provides a framework for negotiating and formalizing trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their parliaments.

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