WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service has modified requirements for tuna vessels to be able to certify that their catch is “dolphin-safe,” under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA).
Mexico had challenged U.S. regulations, in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying the rules on voluntarily labeling tuna as dolphin-safe unfairly disadvantage Mexican tuna trade, and violate the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement).
Mexican fisheries objected to the rule that tuna caught by chasing the fish into large nets in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP), according to the federal agency.
Mexican tuna vessels fish in the ETP, which extends from San Diego, west to Hawaii, and south to Peru. It is the only area in the world where dolphins are known to swim with yellowfin tuna in packed schools. Catching tuna there means chasing dolphins and encircling them with huge nets called purse seines, to gather the tuna below.
Although the dolphins can escape the nets near the surface, it can still be lethal and tuna caught using the technique cannot be labeled dolphin-safe.
The WTO Dispute Settlement Body found the U.S. dolphin-safe labeling scheme “accords less favorable treatment to Mexican tuna products and therefore is inconsistent” with the TBT Agreement.
The rule revisions are meant to change that, by requiring that the U.S. tuna fisheries also may only be certified as dolphin-safe if the captain and an on-board observer, if there is one, certify that, “no dolphins were killed or seriously injured” in the net setting or other gear deployment in which the tuna were harvested, .
It also requires tuna designated as dolphin-safe be stored separately from tuna caught using harmful techniques.
The rule is effective July 13, but the agency said it will help with education and outreach until Jan. 1, so the rule is implemented effectively and rationally.
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