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Blood Tuna: Earth Island’s “Dolphin-Safe” Get Rich Scheme Exposed in New NRDC Report

by Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna
May 22, 2014

Blood Tuna: Earth Island’s “Dolphin-Safe” Get Rich Scheme Exposed in New NRDC Report

"Few realize it, but nearly every foreign fish product sold in the United States enters the U.S. market in violation of federal law.... The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) requires that all imported fish or fish products be accompanied by proof that the technology used to land the catch does not kill or seriously injure whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals in excess of U.S. standards."

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who published the report with this statement, released research that indicates that much of the tuna sold in the United States is being falsely labeled "dolphin-safe" by the Earth Island Institute (EII).

Much of the tuna sold in the United States comes from fisheries in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines. And while huge progress has been made to protect and mitigate dolphin mortalities in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, far fewer measures have been taken to protect dolphins and other marine mammals in other waters.

In discussing mortality rates for spinner dolphins in particular, the NRDC report notes that "much of the spinner dolphin bycatch occurs in areas where fisheries regulation and monitoring are lacking (such as the Indian Ocean)." What the report does not mention is Earth Island, which shamelessly sells their "dolphin-safe" label for tuna supplied from around the world, including fisheries in the Indian Ocean.

In fact, Earth Island sells their "dolphin-safe" label to seven Indian processing companies, nine Sri Lankan processers and more than forty companies in the Philippines. This label allegedly guarantees that no dolphins were harmed or killed in the catch of tuna labeled "dolphin-safe," but in fact nearly 10,000 dolphins are killed by Indian fishing operations alone. Despite this fact, Earth Island Institute reported not one single incident of dolphin mortality.

Earth Island's lapse in reporting is due to the fact that they dedicate no real resources to monitoring and verification of bycatch.

Though they are quick to claim that they monitor fisheries around the world, much of this "monitoring" amounts to unverified statements by captains that they did not injure or kill any dolphins in the harvest of tuna.

Unforgivably, studies have shown that thousands of dolphin mortalities in the Indian Ocean could have been prevented through independent monitoring and verification of catches and landings of tuna fisheries. If they had a real tracking and verification system, it would lay waste to their own "dolphin-safe" label.

For too long Earth Island has deceived consumers into believing that their "dolphin-safe" label guarantees ZERO harm marine mammals. As report after report continue to highlight the organization's blatant willingness to profit off of a deceptive label, we hope that greater progress will be made by the U.S. government in developing comprehensive and enforceable regulations on ocean conservation.