International Marine Mammal Project

Dolphin-deadly Tuna Surfaces in Spain

Earth Island News

International Marine Mammal Project

Last September, Brenda Killian, Executive Director of the Earth Island Institute’s (EII’s) International Dolphin-Safe Monitoring Program and Dr. Paolo Bray, the program’s European coordinator, flew to Vigo, Spain to attend the European Tuna Conference hosted by the Spanish Association of Canned Food Processors (ANFACO).

While in Vigo, they inspected tuna procurement documents at Groupo Calvo, SA, Spain’s largest tuna company, and discovered that the firm had purchased dolphin-deadly tuna from non-EII-approved suppliers in Venezuela, Mexico and Panama.

The dolphin-deadly tuna carried a certificate from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) claiming that the product was “dolphin-safe.” IATTC’s certificates are unacceptable to Earth Island, however, since they permit the intentional chasing and setting of nets on dolphins. The IATTC also allows tuna to be labeled “dolphin-safe” so long as no on-board observer claims to have actually seen a dolphin killed or injured in the nets.

Unfortunately, the IATTC certificates continue to mislead tuna companies into thinking that they are purchasing dolphin-safe tuna when they are not. EII’s dolphin-safe approval requires that tuna be harvested without chasing or setting of nets on dolphins.

The non-EII-approved supplier had “doctored” the Fisheries Certificate of Origin in an attempt to sell its tuna to an EII-approved company. This form, which is required for EII certification, asks suppliers to state if the tuna was harvested by a purse-seine vessel operating inside the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), an area of ocean where the intentional setting of nets on dolphins regularly occurs. If this is the case, the supplier is required to state whether or not the vessel intentionally set nets on dolphins.

Killian discovered that the supplier had crossed out the word “no” on the line of the certificate that states, “no purse-seine net was intentionally deployed on or to encircle marine mammals during the fishing trip and no dolphins were killed or seriously injured.” In other words, the supplier altered the statement to falsely show that the fishing vessel had not intentionally set nets on dolphins.

Killian and Bray explained to Calvo’s representatives that the procurement documents indicated that the tuna they purchased was caught by setting nets on dolphins and, therefore, was not dolphin-safe by EII standards.

Killian advised Calvo that, in order to retain its EII dolphin-safe approval, the company would have to return all of the unprocessed dolphin-deadly tuna to the supplier, recall all of the processed and canned tuna and donate the cans to nonprofit homeless shelters and feed-the-hungry organizations.

Calvo requested permission to destroy the unprocessed dolphin-deadly tuna rather than return it to the supplier. Killian agreed to the proposal, provided EII could obtain proof that all of the tuna was indeed destroyed. Last November, Calvo issued a statement that the unprocessed tuna had been destroyed and restated the company’s commitment to cooperate fully with EII’s dolphin-safe criteria.

An inspection of documents from three other Spanish companies - Frinsa, Jealsa and Actemsa - disclosed that these firms also received dolphin-deadly tuna from Latin America. Frinsa and Jealsa have taken steps to return or destroy the dolphin-deadly tuna and the status of Actemsa’s tuna is still being determined.

The remaining EII-approved tuna companies around the world continue to purchase tuna only from EII-approved suppliers.

EII will continue monitoring tuna shipments globally to ensure compliance with our strict dolphin-safe criteria. Our monitoring staff is preparing a report on the status of all suppliers and will update the status of all Spanish companies.

The goal of the EII monitoring program is to ensure that the world’s tuna companies do not purchase, process, store, tranship or sell tuna that is harvested in driftnets or gillnets, or is caught by chasing and setting nets on dolphins. The hope is that by closing markets for dolphin-deadly tuna around the world, the deadly practice of chasing and setting nets on dolphins will finally be stopped, once and for all.

- Brenda Killian

The Quileute Tribe
The Quileute Tribe is a small, federally recognized nation of 800 enrolled members, whose 900 square miles of ancestral lands include the Pacific Slopes of the Olympic Peninsula and the watersheds of the Sol Doc, Bogachiel, Calawah and Dickey rivers.

With the loss of the great natural abundance that once sustained the Quileute, seasonal tourism has come to constitute a significant portion of the tribe’s economy. Unlike the nearby Makah, who are profiting from whale hunting, the Quileute are proponents of whale watching.

In the past 13 years, members of the Quileute’s tribally owned Northwest Native Adventures have paddled more than 4,000 miles by ocean-going cedar canoe. Canoe leader Fred Woodruff’s stories and songs have entranced hundreds of visitors who have ventured into the Pacific to watch the migration of Pacific gray whales. Fred’s tours have hosted youth, the elderly, and on one occasion, a boatload of Tibetan monks.

But the tribe needed a larger canoe capable of carrying 12 to 15 passengers. The Quileute now have their new canoe - Kwa-dee Tabil (“Little Boat”) - a perfect replica of the traditional Quileute cedar dugout. Construction of Kwa-dee Tabil (beautifully handcrafted out of plywood by John McCallum of Applegate Boatworks) was made possible with a $3,800 grant from the International Marine Mammal Project. The grant was given in support of the Quileute’s devotion to whales and Woodruff’s dream of “putting back in place” a little of what humans have taken from the bounty of the Pacific Northwest.

For information on arranging a sea-going canoe excursion, contact the Quileute Tribal Council [PO Box 279, La Push, Washington 98350-0279, (360) 374-6163].

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