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Dolphin-Safe label gutted.

Earth Island Institute has strongly denounced the recent decision by Commerce Secretary William Daley to weaken the standards for the "Dolphin Safe" label on American tuna cans.

The "Dolphin Safe" label, before his decision, could not be used on any tuna caught by chasing and netting of dolphins by fishermen (e.g. "Dolphin Safe" meant no encirclement of dolphins). Tuna fishermen in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP)target dolphins because tuna and dolphins form mixed schools. Over the past four decades, the international tuna fishery has killed more than seven million dolphins. Since 1990 and the advent of the "Dolphin Safe" tuna program, sparked by a vigorous grassroots and legal campaign waged by Earth Island Institute, annual reported dolphin deaths have decreased by 97 percent in the ETP.

However, tuna fishermen in Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela teamed up in 1997 with free-trade advocates in the Clinton Administration, including Vice President Al Gore, and Congress to pass changes in the dolphin-safe legislation to undercut US dolphin protection laws and open US markets to dolphin-deadly tuna.

On April 29th, just one week after Earth Day 1999, Daley made a finding, contrary to all available scientific information, that chasing and netting dolphins does not cause significant adverse impacts. This action automatically weakened the standards by which tuna is judged to be "Dolphin Safe" to now allow chasing, harassing, netting, injuring, and even killing of dolphins when catching tuna, so long as an on-board observer reports no dolphins killed outright or "seriously injured."

"Scientists, US tuna companies, and the public know that chasing and netting dolphins is not safe for dolphins," stated David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project. "The Commerce Secretary's decision is consumer fraud and a death warrant for thousands of dolphins."

Scientists have determined that dolphin populations in the ETP are not recovering, even with the dramatically lower reported kills of recent years. Harassment of dolphins by tuna fishermen and problems arising from the consequent stress are likely factors affecting dolphin reproduction.

The three major US tuna companies -- StarKist, Bumble Bee, and Chicken of the Sea -- which together make up 90 percent of the US tuna market, have told Commerce Secretary Daley that "... they intend to retain their non-encirclement (of dolphins) policy regardless of the findings that you make ..."

"US consumers have made it abundantly clear -- they do not want to buy tuna caught by killing and injuring thousands of dolphins," announced Patricia Forkan, Executive Vice President of the Humane Society of the United States. "The decision by the Secretary is an outrageous attack on environmental protection laws in order to allow Mexico and other dolphin-killing nations access to the lucrative US tuna market. Once again, trade trumps science."

"How can the Secretary ignore his own scientists?" asked Nancy Blaney, Director, Federal Government Affairs, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "This blatant political decision to weaken the `Dolphin Safe' label cannot be allowed to stand. Thousands of dolphins' lives are at stake."

"The decision by the Secretary clearly violates the letter and intent of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to protect dolphins," emphasized William Snape, Legal Director of Defenders of Wildlife. "Secretary Daley's decision was supposed to be based on science, not trade politics."

"Aggressive lobbying by the Mexican tuna industry and its allies has had powerful undue influence on the US political process," stated Christine Stevens, Secretary of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation. "The involvement of sinister drug forces cannot be denied. In one case, the US Coast Guard found twelve tons of cocaine with a estimated street value of $1 billion hidden in the specially altered holds of a tuna boat."

The Earth Island Institute and the Dolphin Safe/Fair Trade Campaign, having secured the pledge of the three largest tuna companies in the world to buy and sell only truly "Dolphin Safe" tuna (i.e. tuna caught without encircling dolphins with the deadly nets), pledged to continue to line up support from other retail and wholesale outlets for tuna, including restaurants, supermarket chains, and other institutions. Furthermore, Earth Island and four other groups are preparing a federal lawsuit charging that the Secretary's decision was arbitrary and capricious.

What you can do: Letters of thanks are needed to the three US tuna companies. Thank them for maintaining their pledge to buy only truly "Dolphin Safe" tuna (e.g. tuna caught without chasing and netting any dolphins). Urge them to include words on their tuna labels that distinguish their tuna from falsely labeled "Dolphin Safe" tuna! Mr. Dennis Mussell, President; (Chicken of the Sea International); Van Camp Seafood Co., Inc., 4510 Executive Drive, Suite 300, San Diego, CA 92121; (619) 597-4282 (fax). Mr. Peter Bowen, President and CEO; StarKist Tuna; StarKist Foods, Inc.; One Riverfront Place, Newport, Kentucky 41071; (606) 655-5888 (fax). Mr. Mark Koob, President; Bumble Bee Seafoods, Inc.; 3990 Rufin Road, San Diego, CA 92123; (619) 715-4355 (fax). Watch for further information from Earth Island Institute on dolphin-deadly tuna to boycott!
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Article Details
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Author:Palmer, Mark J.
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 1999
Previous Article:Asia's marine mammals.
Next Article:IMMP Goes to Japan.

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