International Marine Mammal Project

Earth Island News

Dolphin-safe tuna has less mercury

IMMP, which has pioneered efforts for the “Dolphin Safe” tuna label for more than two decades, recently hailed a new study regarding mercury in canned tuna.

“Without doubt, the actions by American tuna companies to sell only tuna that was caught without setting nets on dolphins has also meant that US consumers are being provided with tuna with the lowest mercury levels,” said David Phillips, IMMP director.

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The recent Defenders of Wildlife study cites evidence that tuna from Mexico and other countries that chase and net dolphins during fishing operations produce canned tuna that has much higher levels of mercury – as much as 30–50 percent more mercury than tuna from Dolphin Safe sources.

Consumers purchasing tuna with a dolphin-safe label are not being exposed to Mexican tuna with high mercury levels. Mexican tuna cited in this report is banned from using a Dolphin Safe label under US law and is not allowed by procurement policies of the US tuna companies.

Today, more than 90 percent of the world’s tuna catch is Dolphin Safe under international standards of no encirclement or netting of dolphins. In the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean, for reasons that are not fully understood, tuna schools swim beneath dolphins. These tuna tend to be larger, older fish, which, due to their longer life spans, can be exposed to more mercury than younger tuna. Therefore, catching tuna without chasing and netting dolphins tends to produce canned tuna products low in mercury. US tuna companies, such as Chicken of the Sea, Starkist, and Bumble Bee, do not use the dolphin-deadly method to catch tuna.

– Mark J. Palmer

Dolphin slaughter protested at IWC

During the recent annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in St. Kitt’s, dolphin expert Ric O’Barry of the French animal rights organization One Voice surprised attendees by walking into the meeting wearing a TV set showing footage of Japan’s violent dolphin slaughter in Taiji and Futo. Without saying a word, O’Barry paraded the silent footage in front of the astonished Japanese delegation and the entire Commission. Security quickly escorted O’Barry out of the meeting, followed by a parade of TV cameras and reporters.

ric obarry wearing a video monitor showing the dolphin slaughterPhoto by Deborah Adams

The IWC is closed to protesters, but O’Barry had authorization to attend as a media representative. His “silent protest,” held on the first day of the annual meeting, resulted in security representatives of the IWC meeting revoking his media credentials.

O’Barry appeared outside the IWC meeting as it broke for the evening a few days later. Security again intervened, this time asserting that O’Barry could not hold his demonstration without permission from the Marriott Corporation. O’Barry countered that his was a peaceful protest in the spirit of Martin Luther King to show the IWC delegates what the slaughter of dolphins looked like, up close and personal. Surrounded by a crowd composed of delegates heading to their hotel rooms, members of the public curious to see the footage, media representatives, and security agents, O’Barry was slowly escorted back to his hotel room.

Later that evening, O’Barry and his wife and infant daughter were awakened by hotel security and told to leave the resort. The family had to find another hotel for the evening, and then returned home to Florida.

A former dolphin trainer for the popular 1960s US television program “Flipper,” O’Barry wants the world to see the dolphin slaughter so that people can decide for themselves whether or not Japan should continue this barbaric hunt.

The dirty secret of the inhumane killing is that the international captive dolphin industry, representing aquariums and swim-with-dolphins programs, subsidizes the Taiji slaughter by annually buying a handful of the “best” animals from the drive fishery for captivity at enormous prices. Meat from the slaughtered animals has been shown to be high in mercury, PCBs, and other dangerous toxins, yet it is often sold in Japan mislabeled as “whale meat.” A number of representatives from Taiji reportedly joined the Japanese delegation this year to push for renewed coastal whaling of minke and Bryde’s whales, in addition to the annual dolphin slaughter.

One Voice France has joined with EII and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan in bringing the plight of Taiji’s dolphins to the world’s attention. This coalition seeks to end the tragic slaughter of dolphins in Taiji and other areas of the world.

For further information on IMMP’s campaign to protect Taiji’s dolphins and end the slaughter, go to our coalition Web site:

Japan Dolphin Day

The world’s largest slaughter of dolphins and porpoises takes place in Japan every single year. Please help protest the inhumane massacres before the killing season starts! We need as many organizations and individuals as possible to protest in front of the Japanese embassies and consulate offices around the world during the International Protest of the Japanese Dolphin Slaughter on Wednesday, September 20, 2006. Reports from around the world are here.

Japan versus whales

Tensions were high on the Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts during the recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In the early going, Japan lost a number of votes on several key issues. Japanese delegates had been hoping for approval to allow secret ballots (so Japan and its allies can hide their pro-whaling votes from the public back home), to allow Japan’s fishermen in Taiji to return to “small-type coastal whaling” of minke whales, and to discontinue the IWC’s Southern Oceans Sanctuary. Three days into the meeting, Japan at last reached a majority vote on a ballot established to protect the world’s whales but also to see to the “orderly development” of the whaling industry. Substantively, the resolution (called the “St. Kitts Declaration”) passed by only one vote in the divided commission and has no real impact. However, the resolution demonstrated that Japan is close to controlling the agenda of the IWC and pushing for yet more slaughter of whales.
The originally proposed St. Kitts Declaration attacked non-governmental organizations (NGOs), claimed whales were eating all the oceans’ fish, and emphasized the need to “normalize” the IWC by returning to a time when whales were slaughtered.

Hearing objections to their initial draft, St. Kitts and Japan went back to the declaration to “fix” it. However, a reading of the final St. Kitts Declaration versus the original version reveals that there is no real difference between the two documents.

Conservation-minded nations objected to the new draft and expected to negotiate with Japan on the language. But Japan and St. Kitts, finally having enough pro-whaling delegates present at the meeting, demanded a vote on the St. Kitts Declaration, winning 33–32, with one abstention.
Over the past few years, it has been revealed that the Japanese Fisheries Agency is using millions of dollars in international aid to “buy” the voting support for renewed commercial whaling of many small nations around the world, some of which, like Mongolia and Mali, don’t even have a coastline. Japan’s own IWC delegation has admitted as much in the past.

Unfortunately, Japan, Norway, and Iceland, despite violations of the ongoing moratorium against commercial whaling enacted by the IWC in 1985, continue to slaughter whales by the thousands. Since the moratorium went into effect, 27,000 whales have been killed by these three countries. Japan and Iceland claim their whaling catch is needed for “scientific research,” but the research has been condemned repeatedly by the IWC’s own Scientific Committee and a majority of the Commission, while the whale meat is sold in supermarkets. Norway has taken a legal “exception” to the moratorium and so is not required to honor it.

The fight to protect the world’s whales continues, as environmentalists and leading conservation-minded countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, strive to halt the illegal whaling fleets while trying to maintain a precarious majority at the IWC.

Take Action: For further information on the IWC meeting, see the past issues of ECO. For further information on IMMPs International Dolphin Safe Monitoring Program:

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