The Dolphin-Safe Checklist
Most of the canned tuna sold in the United States is not dolphin-safe according to either U.S. law or international standards and regulations. Instead, StarKist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee fish and source tuna from oceans with little or no regulation or supervision and misleadingly market their products as absolutely “dolphin-safe” to American consumers.
The Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), internationally regarded as the most highly monitored and verifiable fishery for tuna certified to have been caught without dolphin mortalities or injuries, has been successfully implemented in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) for 20 years. The AIDCP system uniquely requires 100% independent scientific observer coverage on-board all large fishing vessels and includes observer and government-verified segregation of dolphin-safe tuna from dolphin unsafe tuna from the moment it is captured through unloading, storage and processing. Observer reports of any alleged improprieties are reviewed regularly by the AIDCP International Review Panel, which proposes sanctions and follows up with governments to ensure full compliance. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) also adheres to similar standards.
Despite being a signatory to the AIDCP treaty, the United States does not implement its mandates, instead relying on the false "dolphin-safe" standards of the Earth Island Institute (EII). However, the so-called "monitoring" standards of the EII, "dolphin-safe" certifier for StarKist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee, are in no way comparable to the robust and ironclad tracking and verification program of the AIDCP.
To help empower American consumers, the Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna has developed a Dolphin-Safe Checklist to help conscientious consumers track for themselves the legitimacy of "dolphin-safe" tuna brands and make informed decisions on what tuna they buy.
In April 2013, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) proposed regulations to "improve" U.S. dolphin-safe standards for tuna fishing. However, the proposed regulations fail to create a sustainable, eco-safe approach to fishing for tuna. Rather the draft regulations would only perpetuate the deficient standards for tracking and verification requirements for alternative dolphin-safe labels like those of the EII, StarKist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee.
They would continue to mislead consumers and shield from them the fact that tens of thousands of dolphins are killed each year in non-ETP tuna fisheries around the world, and that those tuna products are sold in the United States as "dolphin-safe." The draft regulations do nothing to correct the current consumer deception as to the true dolphin-safe status of tuna bearing the dolphin-safe label.
Statements by Members of Congress
In the wake of the decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the tuna/dolphin case, some Members of Congress have made comments suggesting that U.S. compliance with the WTO ruling would be tantamount to watering down the current U.S. "dolphin-safe" label and deceiving consumers.
The fact is that the current U.S. "dolphin-safe" label regime is deceptive to consumers. Consumers are being misled about the true dolphin-safe label. The WTO pointed to scientific evidence showing that thousands of dolphins are being killed or seriously injured in the tuna fisheries that supply 98% of the canned tuna to the U.S. market. Yet virtually all of that tuna is labeled "dolphin-safe." Some Members of Congress say that Mexico should conform to the fishing methods used by the U.S. and Ecuador fishing fleets and fish on fish aggregating devices (FADs), which Greenpeace, Pew Environment Group and several other governmental and non-governmental organizations have criticized for their unsustainable impact on oceans and marine ecosystems.
Mexico believes that the U.S. law should be changed to provide consumers with complete, accurate and verifiable information not only about incidental dolphin mortality but also about the ecological impact of the tuna they buy. There are many other misleading and inaccurate statements that have been made about the WTO tuna/dolphin case. You can review them by clicking here.
Earth Island Institute
Following the release of the WTO's final decision on the tuna/dolphin case, Earth Island Institute (EII) issued a statement attacking and mischaracterizing the decision. EII's statement, both inaccurate and misleading, is an attempt by the organization to protect its own financial self-interests and to protect the current U.S. "dolphin-safe" label. Currently, EII holds a monopoly on the issuing of the U.S. "dolphin-safe" label for tuna in the U.S. market. EII also coerces many of the world's tuna processors, distributors and retailers to use its label or face graphic protests and boycotts.
The WTO's decision is especially troubling for EII because reforming tuna labeling standard in the United States would disrupt one of the organization's most profitable endeavors. EII charges high fees for its "dolphin-safe" label and through the years it has made millions of dollars from this scheme.
Many of the claims and characterizations made in EII's statement are patently false and misleading, relying on inflammatory rhetoric and hyperbole. The fact is that for more than twenty years, EII has profited by misleading U.S. consumers about what their so-called "dolphin-safe" label actually means for dolphins. The reality is that EII's so-called "dolphin-safe" tuna is NOT dolphin-safe at all, and the label does not meet any of the current international standards for dolphin-safe. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, thousands of dolphins may be dying in the eastern Atlantic Ocean tuna fisheries, yet all of the tuna is considered "dolphin-safe" by EII.
Schemes like this one only serves to further endanger dolphins and marine mammals in our oceans and ecosystems. It is time that U.S. consumers demand an eco-safe label for all tuna products. To read more about EII's statement on the WTWO tuna/dolphin case, click here.
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For twenty years, U.S. consumers have been misled into believing that tuna with the "dolphin-safe" label is in fact caught without harm to dolphins. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only tuna harvested in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Ocean, where the U.S. fleet does not fish, under the strict controls, 100% observer coverage and tracking system of the AIDCP is caught without dolphin mortality. Outside the ETP, no such controls exist. Despite the fact that thousands of dolphins are killed in these fisheries, which supply virtually all of the tuna that bears the current U.S. "dolphin-safe" label, U.S. law requires no independent certification that dolphins were not encircled and no certification of any kind that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured. Claims of "100% dolphin-safe" made by the major tuna labels in the United States are not certified by independent observers. No legitimate tracking or verification systems support the claims made by for-profit special interest groups such as Earth Island Institute (EII), which claims to be the ultimate arbiter on "dolphin-safe." The fact is that EII is receiving profits from making misleading and completely unsupportable claims to consumers and supporters, while forcing tuna companies and distributors to "subscribe" to their scheme or face blacklisting and boycotts. To get the facts about the different labels as well as EII's scheme, click here. Note: Hover over the yellow icons in the document to display text.