International Marine Mammal Project

Earth Island Institute loses a good friend: Ben White, 1951–2005

Earth Island News

Ben White. Photo Davit HowittPhoto: Davit HowittBen White was a 2004 Green Party political candidate in Washington State.

Ben White lived his life fighting battles that seemed impossible to win. Whether he was rescuing dolphins from captivity, organizing tree-sitting events, or protesting on behalf of victims of environmental racism in low-income communities, White always faced each new problem with humor, compassion, creativity, and energy.

White devoted countless hours to his causes, always taking the extra step to move beyond the ordinary. In 1999, he coordinated the design of 240 sea turtle costumes used during anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle. Thanks to White’s innovative vision, sea turtles received prominent media coverage around the world, including front-page photos in the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today. The costumes are currently under consideration for display at the Smithsonian Institution.

IMMP’s Mark Berman frequently worked with Ben, and remembers a typical example of White’s inimitable, daring style of illustrating a point and generating media attention.

“Before I started working at IMMP, Ben asked me to help him gather evidence of International Paper’s pollution practices in Georgetown, South Carolina. On Thanksgiving Day in 1990, Ben, one other activist, and I found our way deep into the property of International Paper. The place was deserted and security was light. We found an area that Ben described as “boiling cauldrons of Hell” – pools of sludge that were a by-product of paper bleaching. Ben took several jars, tied ropes to them, and dipped them in the pools to collect samples while Arthur [the other activist] and I were on lookout, videotaping Ben’s work.

At a later hearing, an official from International Paper stated that the wastewater from his plant was fit to drink. Ben held up the jars of sludge and offered to pour him a glass! You can imagine the shock of the IP officials, who had never before confronted this type of activism.”

Take action: Donations in Ben’s memory can be made to the
Ben White Fund at Islanders Bank, P.O. Box 909, Friday Harbor,
WA 98250, or to the Animal Welfare Institute, P.O. Box 3650,
Washington, D.C. 20027.

Ben faced his personal battle with cancer with characteristic strength and fearlessness. On March 28, while undergoing treatment in a Seattle hospital, White wrote, “The purpose of life to me is to feel so in love with this world – with the spirit that makes flowers bloom and wind blow – that one doesn’t mind merging completely with it when the time comes. I do not believe in death as an end – merely a transition. I never have. I know of no other processes in Nature that just stop instead of changing. Frankly, I am looking forward to the new adventure of passing.”

His journey ended peacefully on July 30 at age 53, in the midst of friends and family, including his beloved children Ben and Julia, on San Juan Island.

– Audrey Webb

Hope for Alaska sea otters

On August 9, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) submitted its final ruling that lists the Southwestern Alaska Stock of Northern Sea Otters as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as requested in a petition filed by the Sea Otter Defense Initiative (SODI) in January 2002. SODI is a subproject of the International Marine Mammal Project, dedicated to reversing the decline of sea otters through grassroots advocacy and legal action.
With this ruling, the FWS is taking a crucial step to avert the extinction of this sea otter population, which has experienced a drastic rate of decline. In two decades the population has plummeted from an estimated high of 127,000 to an all-time low of 41,474, according to the FWS.

The SODI ESA petition recognized the distinct status of this population from other sea otters in Alaska. This population of sea otters has shown one of the most dramatic and serious declines of any species to be considered for listing under the ESA. Hopefully, listing this sea otter population will initiate the kind of research and protective measures necessary to reverse this decline and prompt the recovery of what was once a healthy and thriving population.

SODI will continue to work directly with FWS to ensure the prompt establishment of a Recovery Team and Recovery Plan process. As part of that effort, and as required under the ESA, the FWS will identify and initiate steps to protect critical habitat for this sea otter population. The Recovery Plan will list plausible hypotheses to explain the decline, indicate research priorities to test those hypotheses, and describe resources and timelines for research that would in turn lead to actions to stop and reverse the decline.

– Cindy Lowry

Sea otter. Photos.comPhotos.comAlaska’s sea otters catch a break.

Sealord Tuna not Dolphin Safe

Sealord Tuna of New Zealand and Australia is owned by Nissui (Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd.) of Japan. Sealord is ineligible for IMMP’s Dolphin Safe tuna policy because Nissui markets whale meat in Japan, slaughtering hundreds of whales annually in the controversial, government-sponsored “scientific” whaling in Antarctica and the North Pacific. Japan’s Fisheries Agency proposed this summer to increase their whaling effort to catch more than 1,000 whales annually, including endangered humpback and fin whales.

“We strongly oppose Japan’s whaling effort,” notes David Phillips, director of IMMP. “Sealord Tuna cannot claim to be ‘dolphin safe’ when its parent company is marketing whale meat.”

“IMMP’s Dolphin Safe tuna policy,” adds Phillips, “does not just address the protection of dolphins. IMMP’s policy also requires companies to refrain from whaling, refrain from killing sea turtles, and refrain from using other fishing practices that harm marine life and their ecosystems.”

Consumers are urged to tell the storeowners and managers that Sealord Tuna should be taken off shelves and not sold.

Owners or managers who are interested in selling true Dolphin Safe tuna in their stores, verified by IMMP’s tuna monitoring program, can visit IMMP’s Web site, which includes listings of more than 300 tuna companies that catch and process tuna without chasing, netting, or harming dolphins.

How safe for dolphins is tuna?

More than 90 percent of the world’s tuna companies support IMMP’s international standards for “Dolphin Safe” tuna, and these standards still remain the law of the land in the US. IMMP’s standards allow use of purse seine nets to catch tuna as long as the nets are not deployed around or otherwise harm any dolphins or other marine mammals. (The standards also allow bait boats to catch tuna with traditional hook and line.) IMMP’s standards also protect other marine species by prohibiting tuna vessels and companies in our program to be involved in commercial whaling, sea turtle harvesting, and other destructive activities.

Take action: You can learn more about Earth Island’s Dolphin
Safe tuna program and our standards, as well as listings of
participating tuna companies, at

Almost all the world’s tuna meets Dolphin Safe standards. But what about those tuna companies that continue to allow the chasing, netting, and killing of dolphins? Here is an example of tuna caught in Mexico that is found in some US markets:

Dolores and TUNY Tuna (Mexico and US): Dolores Tuna is canned by PINSA, the largest tuna processor in Mexico. TUNY is the second largest canner in Mexico. Dolores Tuna has appeared on US market shelves, often in stores that feature Mexican foods, and is sold widely in Mexico. TUNY is more rare in the US. PINSA and TUNY have repeatedly refused to sign Dolphin Safe tuna policies with IMMP. Both Dolores and TUNY process tuna that are caught by chasing and netting dolphins.

IMMP’s standards
prohibit tuna vessels and companies from commercial whaling, sea turtle
harvesting, and other destructive activities.

Some Dolores Tuna labels do not have a “Dolphin Safe” (“Amigo del Delfín”) logo, and this tuna is technically legal to sell in the US. Other cans of Dolores and TUNY tuna do have an “Amigo del Delfín” logo. Since this tuna is caught by chasing and netting dolphins, it does not qualify for a Dolphin Safe logo under US law, and its sale in this country is therefore illegal. Mexico has no laws governing the labeling of tuna, so the label is grossly misleading to consumers. Due to a complaint filed by the International Marine Mammal Project, the illegal import and sale of Dolores tuna in San Diego resulted in the arrest of smugglers, who were fined more than $40,000. However, supplies of Dolores and TUNY tuna, both legal and illegal, continue to appear in stores around the US.

There are things you can do to help if you find Dolores or TUNY tuna for sale in your local store.

Alert IMMP: If you see a questionable brand of canned tuna for sale in the US, please contact the International Marine Mammal Project with the name and address of the store where it is for sale and the date on which you saw it. If possible, purchase a can and send the can or the label alone to IMMP (300 Broadway, Suite 28, San Francisco, CA 94133), with your receipt showing the name and address of the store and the date.

Dolores label.

Talk to the store owner or manager: Mention that the tuna is caught by methods that harm and kill thousands of dolphins annually. The store’s managers should remove it from the shelves and not sell it. If you can, please get the name and address of the distributor who sold the tuna to the store, and forward that information to Earth Island’s IMMP.

Victory in Slovenia

Following a complaint filed by International Marine Mammal Project, the Slovenian Advertising Arbitration Court has asked the tuna company Calvo to remove their advertising statement that falsely claims European Union “recognition” of Calvo’s Dolphin Safe status. Calvo, based in Spain, is one of the largest tuna fishing companies in Europe. Calvo is virtually the only European company purchasing tuna caught by chasing and netting dolphins. More than 7 million dolphins have been killed over the past five decades since fishing “on dolphins” was adopted by fishermen in Mexico, Venezuela, and other Latin American nations and the US.

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