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‘Don’t Weaken the Dolphin Safe Label,’ Lawmakers Urge Obama

Misguided WTO Ruling Puts Dolphins at Risk, Misleads Consumers

Representative Ed Markey and 42 other Democrat lawmakers sent a letter to President Obama yesterday, urging him to threaten Mexico with cuts in economic assistance if it didn’t drop its case against the Dolphin Safe tuna at the World Trade Organization.

Photo by Mark Palmer/Earth Island Institute"The American people deserve to know whether or not the fish they eat was caught by
killing Flipper," say Rep Ed Markey.

“The American people deserve to know whether or not the fish they eat was caught by killing Flipper,” said Markey, who is ranking Democrat of the House Natural Resources Committee. “Dolphin-safe labeling of canned tuna has been successful in protecting the species and giving consumers informed choices.”

 “If the Mexican government continues to pursue WTO action in this case, we ask that your administration reconsider the level of economic assistance Mexico receives from U.S. taxpayers," the lawmakers said in their letter to the President (see copy here).

The fact that Mexico has received about $200 million in development aid since 1999 and is slated to get another $33 million this year, should offset “any hardship the Mexican government claims to be experiencing from its inability to comply with perfectly reasonable dolphin-safe requirements," they noted.

"The disputed label

The letter comes in response to a May 16 WTO ruling that the Dolphin Safe label on tuna products sold in the US — which requires the tuna are caught without harming dolphins — discriminates against Mexico, which kills thousands of dolphins annually to catch the tuna that swim beneath dolphin pods.

The US and Mexico’s long-standing dispute over this issue dates back to the establishment of the Dolphin Safe tuna label in by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project in 1990. Mexico claims the restrictions to protect dolphins discriminate against the Mexican tuna industry.

Absurdly, the WTO ruling suggests the US lie to consumers about the safety of tuna to dolphins, all in the name of free trade.  (See: WTO Rules US Dolphin Safe Tuna Label Unfair to Mexico)

 “The WTO decision on the US Dolphin Safe tuna label is an outrageous attack that would ensure thousands of dolphins horrible deaths in tuna nets while lying to consumers about the Dolphin Safe status of such tuna,” said IMMP director David Phillips.

Since the Dolphin Safe tuna program was established in 1990, dolphin deaths in the tuna fishery have declined an impressive 98 percent. Only Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia continue to chase and net dolphins during tuna fishing operations.

Earth Island too, is urging the Obama administration to protect the US Dolphin Safe label standards during follow up negotiations with the Mexican government over the issue.  The letter from so many members of the US House of Representatives suggests that any weakening of the Dolphin Safe label would not be welcomed by Congress.

What You Can Do:You can send a thank you letter to:

Representative Ed Markey
House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Mark J. Palmer
Mark J. Palmer is Associate Director of the International Marine Mammal Project.

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