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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 24 September 2004 Issue

Judge Strengthens Dolphin-Safe Tuna Label

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 10, 2004 (ENS) - Dolphin conservationists are proclaiming victory after a federal judge Monday ordered the U.S. Commerce Department to issue a new rule prohibiting the use of a "Dolphin-safe" label on any tuna products caught by netting dolphins.

Fishing vessels in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean find schools of tuna by watching for the dolphin groups that swim above them in the water. When nets are closed around the tuna, dolphins can be caught, drowned and discarded. More than seven million dolphins have been killed in tuna nets since the late 1950s.

In U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Federal Judge Thelton Henderson, ruling in the case Earth Island Institute v. Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, noted that the Commerce Departmentšs weakening of the "Dolphin-safe" label on tuna cans illegally ignored scientific evidence and must be overturned.

On December 31, 2002, Evans issued a finding of "no significant adverse impacts," allowing Mexico, Colombia, and other tuna fishing nations to label their tuna as "Dolphin Safe" and sell it in the United States, even if it was caught by the chasing, netting, and killing thousands of dolphins annually.

Earth Island Institute filed suit, contending that the Evans decision weakened the "Dolphin Safe" tuna label definition on the basis of trade politics, rather than science, as required by Congress.

Further, Earth Island took steps to obtain secret government memos demonstrating that biologists working for federal agencies knew that dolphin populations were not recovering, as a result of the tuna fishery.

The documents revealed pressure on the biologists from the U.S. State Department, Mexico and other tuna fishing nations to ignore the scientific conclusions.

David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute, said, "More than 300 documents were withheld from the court record. The Bush administration went to amazing lengths to prevent Earth Island and the court from obtaining these damaging revelations."

Phillips said, "Secret court documents proved that the government knew all along that netting dolphins was jeopardizing their very survival. Yet the Bush administration still went ahead and ruled that tuna trade with Mexico was more important than dolphin lives."

Judge Henderson rebuked Secretary Evans, ruling, "The record convincingly demonstrates that the Secretary [of Commerce] nonetheless proceeded to sacrifice the integrity of the decision-making process by disregarding the best available scientific evidence in favor of political and diplomatic considerations."

Phillips said, "Judge Hendersonšs ruling exposes the Bush administrationšs deceit in ignoring its own scientists and caving in to Mexican demands to allow dolphin-deadly tuna back into U.S. with a phony label."

Plaintiffs in this case include - Earth Island Institute, Samuel LaBudde, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Defenders of Wildlife, the International Wildlife Coalition, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, the Animal Fund, and the Oceanic Society.

This is being sent to you by Judy Reed, founder of AnimalVoices
[email protected]

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