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Campaign For Eco-Safe Tuna Applauds World Trade Organization Final Decision In Dolphin-Safe Labeling Dispute

November 20, 2015


Ruling is a Resounding Victory for Global Environment, Marine Ecosystem and Consumers


WASHINGTON, November 20, 2015 — Today the Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna applauded the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body’s final decision in the long running trade dispute between Mexico and the United States regarding the use of dolphin-safe labels in the U.S. marketplace. The Appellate Body, the final word on this case, agreed with claims made by Mexico that the United States has failed to comply with the 2011 ruling of the Appellate Body.

The WTO decision is a resounding and conclusive victory for Mexico. More importantly, it is a victory for the global environment, for all species of the marine ecosystem and for consumers who rely on the truth and veracity of eco-labeling schemes. The WTO decision, once the United States finally implements it, will greatly contribute to safeguarding dolphins around the world, as well as other species such as turtles, sharks, billfish and, notably, tuna itself. It also reinforces Mexico’s commitment to harvest tuna in a sustainable way to deliver to consumers a product that is fully traceable from its point of capture to the point of sale, and fully verifiable as to its true dolphin safe status.

There is clear acknowledgement in the decision by the Appellate Body that the multilateral Agreement on International Dolphin Conservation Program, to which both Mexico and the United States are parties, has dramatically reduced dolphin mortality in the Eastern Tropical Pacific since 1990. Moreover, the Appellate Body agrees that the United States has completely ignored the high incidence of dolphin mortalities in other oceans that supply more than 95 percent of tuna to the U.S. market, which undermines its claim of zero tolerance of dolphin mortalities for canned tuna bearing the dolphin-safe label. For that reason, the Appellate Body agreed with the earlier Appellate Body which concluded that the U.S. measures could actually mislead, rather than inform, because of the absolute insurance given to U.S. consumers that they are eating “dolphin-safe” tuna are not confirmed by independent observers and is likely to be inaccurate.

The WTO decision comes at a crucial time in the worldwide effort to combat the depletion of tuna stocks and damage to other species in the world’s oceans as a result of needless bycatch and discards. It reaffirms the importance of multilateral environmental agreements at precisely the time when such agreements must be relied upon to deal with major environmental challenges, from species preservation to climate change.

All the United States has accomplished in the past seven years of litigation at the WTO is to deny U.S. consumers a meaningful and credible dolphin-safe label for canned tuna products and to provide a market incentive for the use of destructive fishing practices, including fishing on so-called fish aggregating devices (FADs), in the fisheries that supply 96 percent of canned tuna products to the United States. It is time for the United States to completely overhaul the current system for granting, monitoring and enforcing the use of the dolphin-safe label for canned tuna products in order to protect dolphins, ensure the long-term health of global tuna stocks and provide consumers with an accurate and verifiable label.


About the Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna

The Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna is an international effort committed to a more sustainable approach to tuna fishing. We advocate for new labeling rules in the United States and around the world to promote an eco-friendly approach to tuna fishing and ensure that consumers are no longer misled about false claims by current “dolphin-safe” labels. For more information, visit www.ecosafetuna.org. Follow the campaign on Twitter at @ecosafetuna.

Tuna Truth Squad