Dolphin Safe Tuna? Mexico Refuses to Cooperate Under NAFTA, Dolphins Are Dying

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That can of tuna with the ‘dolphin safe’ sticker on it may not be so safe after all. Unless the label guarantees that the fish was caught in compliance with regulations, don’t buy it.

Fishermen find the tuna by first finding the dolphins. (NOAA photo)


Environmental Organizations Object to Mexico’s Sabotage of NAFTA Dolphin Safe Tuna Case

Ask President Obama to Engage President Felipe Calderon on this matter.

Six major environmental and animal welfare organizations have asked President Obama to use his influence with Mexican President Felipe Calderon to stop the Mexican government’s sabotaging the legally-required process over the Dolphin Safe tuna label issue before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The organizations include Earth Island Institute (International Marine Mammal Project), Humane Society International, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Welfare Institute, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Mexico challenged the U.S. Dolphin Safe tuna label before the World Trade Organization (WTO). While the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has actively complied with its responsibilities under the WTO, USTR also took steps in September of 2010 to transfer the case to NAFTA under Article 2005(4) of Chapter 20, which requires that NAFTA be the sole forum to hear the dispute when certain conditions are met.
For more than a year, however, the Government of Mexico has refused to either take any steps to appoint a dispute panel in the NAFTA dispute or agree to transfer the WTO case to NAFTA.
President Obama is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Calderon on November 13th in Honolulu.
Mexico has dragged out this dispute more than 20 years – 20 years when the Mexican government could have been helping their fishermen transition to tuna fishing methods that would save dolphin lives.
At the behest of a handful of tuna millionaires, the Mexican government has thrown up every legal and political roadblock imaginable – methods that US courts described as flagrant meddling.  Their refusal to even respond to this legal inquiry shows that they follow the letter of their international obligations only when it suits them.  Meanwhile, dolphins are paying the ultimate price.

“The issue is important in that Mexico won a preliminary decision in the WTO that says the Dolphin Safe tuna label in the US is “trade restrictive.”  Had the issue come up in NAFTA where it belongs, the dolphins would have won.  Hence, Mexico is refusing to abide by NAFTA.  (The US will likely appeal the WTO decision, so it ain’t over yet.)
What Mexico wants is to be allowed to chase, net, and kill dolphins in fishing for tuna and still claim such tuna is “Dolphin Safe” and export it to the US.

The official dolphin kill, based on onboard observer reports, in the entire Eastern Tropical Pacific was 1,239 dolphins in 2009 (latest data available). We suspect observers are being intimidated and/or bribed to give low counts.
Baby dolphins are often separated from their mothers by the nets.

We also know that baby dolphins cannot keep up with the pod when they are chased by speedboats — these dependent babies are left behind to starve or get eaten by sharks.  The populations of dolphins that are being chased and netted are not showing any rebound from their severely depressed numbers.  (The two dolphin stocks most chased and netted, the Eastern Spinner Dolphin and Northeastern Offshore Spotted Dolphin stocks number around a million dolphins each, which sound like a lot until you realize they numbered probably 5 million each back in the 1950’s before nets were used to catch tuna.)
Mexico has the largest fleet of purse seiners that pursue dolphins to catch tuna, so their fleet is likely responsible for half the dolphin mortality there.  Venezuela and Colombia also have large fleets that kill dolphins, and a few companies in other countries also continue to kill dolphins.”
View the letter sent to President Obama by Earth Island here.  To contact The White House:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500. Please include your e-mail address

White House Phone Numbers

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

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