Subject: Case Study: Dolphin Safeguards

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 4 Mar 1996 08:41:34 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Mon, 4 Mar 96 12:06:00 UTC 0000
Subject: Green groups, Congress split o

Green groups, Congress split on dolphin safeguards

    By Vicki Allen
     WASHINGTON (Reuter) - The environmental community and
congressmen were split Thursday on the best approach to take to
protect dolphins from dying in tuna fishing nets.
     The White House -- backed by an unlikely alliance of some
conservative and moderate congressmen and environmental groups
including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund -- pushed a
bill to allow tuna imports as long as fishermen do not kill more
than 5,000 dolphins annually in the Pacific Ocean, where dolphin
and tuna tend to swim together.
     But other environmental groups, including the Sierra Club
and the Humane Society of the United States, at a House
Resources subcommittee hearing branded the administration bill a
sell-out of dolphins for international trade interests.
     They backed another bill largely pushed by more liberal
Democrats that would adhere to current U.S. standards of
"dolphin safe" tuna, meaning fish are not caught inthe kind
of nets that also trap and kill dolphins.
     They said the administration bill would permit chasing and
encircling dolphins, amounting to harassment for hours or days
that likely would raise mortality and lower birth rates. They
also said that would make the "dolphin safe" label seen on
U.S. tuna cans a fraud.
     "As I understand it, 'safe' would now permit doing all
kinds of dastardly things to dolphins, including killing them --
as long as no one happens to notice it actually happening,"
said Rep. Gerry Studds, a Massachusetts Democrat.
     "While I agree that we need to open our market to other
'dolphin-safe' tuna -- regardless of the national affiliation of
the tuna boat -- I adamantly disagree with those who say we must
change the definition of 'dolphin-safe,"' said Sen. Joe Biden,
a Delaware Democrat who testified against the White House bill.
     Under-Secretary of State Tim Wirth said the United States
must make some changes to "generate the international
cooperation required to protect these dolphins further."
     The White House bill would put into law Latin American
countries' current voluntary program for more dolphin-safe
     Wirth said the legislation would prompt these countries to
keep using precautions to prevent dolphin entrapment in their
nets, and would extend protections beyond tuna for the United
States, which is about one-fourth of the world market.
     The United States has a labeling law for cans of
"dolphin-safe" tuna not caught in the huge nets, and the tuna
industry voluntarily imposed a purchasing ban on tuna from
countries using the nets deemed dangerous to dolphin.
     In 1992, Latin American countries developed a voluntary
program to reduce dolphin deaths while still using the nets.
With this program dolphin deaths dropped to 3,601 in 1993
compared with nearly half a million annually in the early 1970s.