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The Earth Island Labeling Scheme: Is Anyone Watching?

by Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna
January 8, 2014

The Earth Island Labeling Scheme: Is Anyone Watching?

Widespread consumer confusion about who oversees the “dolphin-safe” label is understandable. We expect consumer labels to be overseen with impartiality. Many of us share a simple belief that food labels should empower us to make informed decisions. The truth-in-labeling movement pushes this even further, driving companies to use more truthful marketing. But for Earth Island’s deceptive “dolphin-safe” program, the label just doesn’t mean what it says.

Under normal circumstances the Department of Commerce would regulate these consumer labels. But instead the “dolphin-safe” label has been effectively outsourced to The Earth Island Institute, an increasingly notorious and unsupervised special interest group. Earth Island runs the profitable International Marine Mammal Project, a program that receives funding from Big Tuna in exchange for helping the corporations dodge consumer ire by inaccurately certifying their tuna as "dolphin-safe." Earth Island Institute is on the record repeatedly attacking competing labels to protect its own financial interest.

Earth Island’s label rules are based on old international standards that applied almost exclusively to a tiny piece of ocean called the Eastern Tropical Pacific while shielding from public view the tens of thousands of dolphins killed each year in the capture of its so-called “dolphin-safe” EII-certified tuna. In 1997, the U.S. Congress passed a law strengthening those labeling standards and increasing oversight of tuna fishing, but the Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission have never fully implemented those truth-in-labeling protections. The law also expanded dolphin protections to include many more species of marine wildlife.

In response, the Earth Island Institute, which was cutting its checks with funding from the limited and deceptive "dolphin-safe" label, blocked important parts of the legislation with a raft of law suits ultimately paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Since then, death rates among dolphins, sharks and other marine life have continued to surge in world’s fisheries that supply 95% of the U.S. canned tuna market. These booming mortality rates and tremendous bycatch of other marine life that result from EII’s effective mandate for FAD and longline fishing methods critically threaten the very eco-systems that Earth Island’s shadowy, false and indefensible “dolphin-safe” label claims to protect.

Tens of thousands of dolphins are killed each year in fisheries that supply Earth Island-certified "dolphin-safe" tuna to the U.S. market. To date, literally nothing has been done to regulate this corrupt and outdated program or to investigate its blatant misuse and deception of consumers.

Who do YOU think should oversee the “dolphin-safe” tuna label? Take our web poll and find out what others are saying.