With the die-off of bottlenose dolphins along the east coast I thought it would be a opportune time to bring up the “Dolphin Safe / Dolphin Friendly” label that you might find on some grocery products. Although the die-off is due to a virus, dolphins have a lot of enemies… and we aren’t an exception to that list. There are many companies trying to protect them across the US and world, but things get tricky once we cross into international waters. Different countries have different standards, ratings, and meanings of course.
What exactly does “Dolphin Safe” tuna mean? Earth Island Institute states it as “tuna caught without chasing and netting of dolphins.”
Earth Island Institute is one of those companies that is trying to protect dolphins and they do that by monitoring tuna companies around the world. More than 90% of the tuna companies adhere to their standards, which saves more than hundreds of dolphins lives. The goal of Earth Island Institute is to make sure Dolphins and the ecosystem aren’t harmed during the catching of tuna. Their 5 standards that companies must adhere to can be found on their website, along with a List of Approved Dolphin-Safe Tuna Companies in the US.
- No intentional chasing, netting or encirclement of dolphins during an entire tuna fishing trip;
- No use of drift gill nets to catch tuna;
- No accidental killing or serious injury to any dolphins during net sets;
- No mixing of dolphin-safe and dolphin-deadly tuna in individual boat wells (for accidental kill of dolphins), or in processing or storage facilities; and
- Each trip in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) by vessels 400 gross tons and above must have an independent observer on board attesting to the compliance with points (1) through (4) above.
Some will state that these labels “don’t guarantee that there’s NO dolphin meat in the tuna can.” It hard to know who to trust with the many different “Dolphin Safe” labels out there. It’s up to us to research the many different organizations and their policies to come to our own conclusion. There are three different types of of “Dolphin Safe” labels on groceries in the US from these organizations: US Department of Commerce, EarthTrust, Earth Island Institute. Wikipedia states – “According the US Consumers Union, these labels provide no guarantee that dolphins have not been harmed during the fishing process because verification of the dolphin-friendly claim is neither universal nor independent.”
Here’s some random facts and website to visit:
- Fins and Fluke
- The 3 major countries that have very high bycatch of dolphins: Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia.
- “The reality is that the U.S. law and “dolphin-safe” policy ONLY certifies that no harm occurred to dolphins if the tuna were caught in the ETP fishery. It found that even when thousands of dolphins are killed in the course of fishing for tuna outside of the ETP, the canned tuna bears the “dolphin-safe” label under the current labeling standards. More than 98% of the tuna in the U.S. market today is sourced from these and other unmonitored and untracked fisheries where thousands of dolphins are killed every year.”
- Dolphins are a common by-catch in tuna fisheries as they with schools of yellowfin tuna.
- In 1990, the U.S. passed the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA). The law had three main provisions:
- Protecting dolphins from capture by purse seine nets.
- Providing labeling standards for tuna exported from or sold in the U.S.
- Setting penalties for noncompliance.
- Current U.S. Law & Policy