Animal Writes
From 29 December 2002 Issue

Dolphin Safe Tuna - Isn't
By Anai Rhoads - [email protected]

The Mexican tuna industry is said to be responsible for a dramatic decline of dolphins in the eastern Pacific ocean. This according to an August 2002 report published by U.S. government scientists. [1]

A December 5th release stated eastern Spinner dolphins are only 35% of their pre-fishery levels. Northeastern off-shore spotted dolphins are only 20%. Neither population is recovering at a rate consistent with the levels of depletion. An estimated 6 million dolphins have been killed since the 1950s, reportedly because current tuna fishing techniques.

In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was passed by the U.S. Congress to protect mammals who dwell in the world's oceans by prohibiting capture, injury, harassment or killing of ocean animals.

Under the 1994 amendments [2], the Congress statutorily defined and divided the term "harassment" to mean any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which:

Level A Harassment- has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild; or

Level B Harassment- has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption or behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.

In 1997, Congress considered legislation, called the Dolphin Conservation Act (DCA), that would undermine the MMPA's ban on imports of tuna that involved the entrapment of dolphins. Environmental and conservation activists were alarmed that the U.S. sought to appease Mexico by weakening the "Dolphin Safe" label.

A hundred page report that was prepared by NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Centre [3] and based on research conducted from 1997 up to 2002. It cites contributing factors as to why the dolphin populations are not recovering. Scientists clearly suspect the eastern Pacific tuna industry as a major factor.

There are no current reports that state the Mexican tuna industry have any plans to update labels from Dolphin Safe to something more appropriate.

Urge Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans to protect the "dolphin-safe" label on tuna by signing this template 

Contact information for the advocacy group working on this issue:

Defenders of Wildlife
National Headquarters
1101 14th Street, NW #1400
Washington, DC 20005 

2002 Anai Rhoads. All rights reserved.

Requires Acrobat Reader.

[2] To read the entire MMPA document in a pdf file click here.

NOAA Restoration Centre

Anai Rhoads is a health and political writer from Virginia, with work published in various online newspapers. Her main job is writing and editing health, reproduction and Vegan web sites. A vegan since 2000, she is a dedicated supporter of activities which promote animal and human rights.

Anai Rhoads
Freelance Writer and Editor
(703) 491-0176
[email protected] 

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