Commerce Department Decision on Dolphin-Safe Label is Best Chance for Continued Declines in Dolphins Kills, Greenpeace Says
Greenpeace said the decision today by the US Department of Commerce to change the definition of the dolphin-safe label on tuna cans reflects the success of a 12-nation agreement to reduce dolphin kills in the Eastern Tropical Pacific tuna fishery.
Citing a more than 90 percent reduction in dolphin deaths in this fishery since the agreement took effect in 1992, Greenpeace's Gerald Leape said it is appropriate for the US to now modify the definition of dolphin-safe.
Since 1992, the nations fishing for tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific have reduced the number of dolphins killed from 27,000 to fewer than 2100 annually, Leape explained. They have also begun to reduce unwanted catches of juvenile tuna, billfish, sea turtles and other species. This is an undeniable improvement in the way we manage the marine ecosystem.
The reductions in dolphin deaths, with an eventual goal of zero dolphin deaths per year, was one goal of the International Dolphin Conservation Program created by the 12 nations in November 1997. The U.S. was the first to ratify the agreement. The agreement entered into force with its fourth ratification. Among the precedents set by this agreement, nations fishing for tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific agreed to:
* reduce the allowable level of dolphin kills for the entire fishery from 6,500 to 5,000 and mandate continual reductions toward an eventual goal of zero;
* significantly reduce kills of specific dolphin species that are most frequently targeted by those who encircle dolphins;
* implement a bycatch reduction program for sharks, billfish, sea turtles and juvenile tuna;
* set sustainable catch quotas for tuna and require the closure of the fishery if limits are reached;
* require 100% observer coverage to verify compliance with all aspects of the program.
The Commerce Department's first year's study indicates that the marine ecosystem as a whole, and dolphins in particular, are faring better now than they were prior to this international fishing agreement, Leape said. Greenpeace believes the US should encourage the nations fishing in the Eastern Tropical Pacific to stick with this program and keep moving toward a goal of zero dolphin deaths.
However, Leape added that Greenpeace would hold the Administration accountable for completing the mandated three-year survey on the health of three key dolphin species, and for upholding its commitment to revisit today's decision if dolphins are not recovering.
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Jim Hogan contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.chum-bucket.com.
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