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New US `Dolphin-Safe' Label is a Dolphin Death Certificate.

Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) is protesting new tuna-labeling regulations released by the Clinton Administration's US Department of Commerce on January 3, 2000. The new rules would allow US vessels to set their purse-seine nets on dolphins to catch tuna swimming below them, This tactic, called "encirclement," has been banned since 1994.

"You would have to look long and hard to find a more extreme example of doublespeak," charged IMMP Director David Phillips. "Calling a fishing method that has killed more dolphins than any other cause in history `dolphin-safe' is a complete sham."

"Consumers should avoid canned tuna with the Commerce Department's so-called `Dolphin-Safe' label." Phillips added. "This tuna could well have been caught by chasing, injuring, and netting of dolphins."

EII and nine other environmental and animal welfare organizations are suing the Commerce Department over the deceptive label, contending that the government's new, "dolphin safe" mark for tuna labels will mislead customers and seriously weaken established dolphin-safe standards. A separate lawsuit seeks to block the lifting of tuna embargoes from countries such as Mexico and Venezuela that continue to net and kilt dolphins via-encirclement fishing. Unless EII's lawsuits succeed, the Commerce Department's new "dolphin-safe" logo could appear on supermarket shelves at any time.

Leading tuna producers and retailers, including the world's largest tuna companies (StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea), have pledged to maintain true dolphin-safe standards -- no dolphins will be encircled in purse-seine nets.

The Commerce Department, bowing to pressure from Mexican tuna millionaires and the threat of sanctions from the World Trade Organization (WTO), weakened the standards for the "dolphin safe" label. Under the new regulations, tuna fleets may chase, harass, net, injure and even kill dolphins during the pursuit of tuna -- so long as no on-board observers actually see any dolphins being killed or "seriously injured" in the process. This phony "Dolphin-Safe" tuna can be mixed with admittedly dolphin-deadly tuna in the vessels' holds, encouraging cheating and rendering even this weak regulation meaningless. Consumers will not be able to tell if the tuna they are buying is truly dolphin safe. Without strict regulation, the lucrative US tuna market will provide an incentive for foreign vessels to chase and kill tens of thousands of dolphins.

Over the past four decades, more than 7 million dolphins were killed using the encirclement technique. Three million dolphins are encircled in the Eastern Tropical Pacific each year, according to US Humane Society biologist Naomi Rose, and this harassment represses dolphins reproductive output. Their population has not recovered from the massive mortality of 1959 -- 1990, in spite of the drop in reported kills from 133,000 to fewer than 2,000 annually. This also suggests that the reported dolphin death toll does not reflect the full extent of the mortalities.

Consumers can help protect dolphins by purchasing only tuna sold by companies that have pledged to buy truly dolphin-safe tuna. These companies subscribe to independent monitoring of their activities to ensure that the fish are caught without harming dolphins.

Earth Island Institute, Humane Society of the US, and other organizations are working to ensure that only true dolphin-safe tuna is sold in US stores, restaurants, and institutions. If you see tuna with the Department of Commerce "Dolphin Safe" Label on the can, tell the store manager that the tuna was caught by methods that harm dolphins and that the store should not carry it. Also contact IMMP [(415) 788-3666, fax: (415) 788-7324, marinemammal@earthisland.org] with the store's name, location, and phone number. We will follow up by sending information on the plight of dolphins to the stores and recommending the best tuna to purchase.

RELATED ARTICLE: Dolphin-Safe Firms

The following responsible companies have pledged to buy and sell only true dolphin-safe tuna.

Tuna Processors & Major Brands

StarKist Tuna, Bumble Bee Tuna, Chicken of the Sea Tuna, Kawasho International (USA.) Inc. (Geisha Brand) and Mitsubishi International Corp.

Supermarkets

Safeway Stores, IGA Stores, Disco Stores, A & P Stores, Albertsons, Inc., West Best Inc. (Canada), Publix Super Markets Inc. and Schultz Sav-o Stores Inc. (Piggly Wiggly Stores).

Restaurants and Food Services

Subway, Inc., Walt Disney Company, Garden Fresh Restaurants, Long John Silver Restaurants, Darden Restaurants (The Olive Garden), CKE Restaurants, Inc. (Carl's Junior), Beverly Hills Cafe, Sovereign Hotels, Inc., Auto Diner and Hot N Fast.
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Article Details
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Author:Palmer, Mark J.
Publication:Earth Island Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2000
Words:716
Previous Article:In a Land of Oil and Agony.
Next Article:The European Dolphin Campaign.
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