Subject: Case Study: Dolphins & Congress Comes Closer (Part II)

Michael Williamson (
Thu, 9 May 1996 15:35:22 -0400 (EDT)

What do you think?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 9 May 96 00:25:00 UTC 0000
Subject: Congress Comes Closer to Disma

Congress Comes Closer to Dismantling Dolphin-Safe ...

   WASHINGTON, May 8 /U.S. Newswire/ --  Conservationists warn that trade
politics, not dolphin protection, likely will drive the debate today when the
House Resources Committee votes on legislation that would weaken standards for
labelling tuna cans "dolphin-safe."
   Defenders of Wildlife and a coalition of more than 70 other groups adamantly
oppose weakening the standard, as proposed in H.R. 2823 sponsored by Rep.
Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.).
   "It would be criminal for Congress to allow a massive increase in dolphin
deaths in the Pacific Ocean just to bail out Mexico and the North American
Free Trade Agreement.  This bill would dismantle one of the most popular
labeling programs ever, ignoring the concerns of hundreds of thousands of
school children and others in the American public whose demands for an end to
dolphin killing led to the current legislation," said Defenders' President
Rodger Schlickeisen.
   Passed out of subcommittee last month, the Gilchrest bill was written in
response to Mexican demands that the United States change its tuna-dolphin
policy after an international tribunal ruled that current U.S. law is
inconsistent with General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) standards.
   H.R. 2823 changes the current definition of the "dolphin-safe" label found
cans of tuna sold in the United States to allow into the market tuna that was
caught by methods that encircle, harass and chase dolphins in order to catch
accompanying tuna, as long as no "observed" dolphin deaths occur.
   The bill would implement an international agreement, known as the
of Panama, which was signed last October by the United States, Mexico and nine
other countries.  The Declaration of Panama necessitates a weakening in U.S.
dolphin protection laws including the Dolphin Consumer Protection Act and
Marine Mammal Protection Act.
   Defenders says such a change is exactly what many in the environmental
community fearedtwo years ago during the NAFTA debate.  In 1991, bipartisan
leadership in Congress demanded that trade agreements not jeopardize wildlife
protection laws. Even though H.R. 2823 does just that, it is supported by the
White House and a small faction of environmental groups.
   "The Gilchrest-White House bill is a bad deal for dolphins and American
consumers," charged Defenders' legal director William Snape.  "Sound science
dictates that we move with extreme caution when authorizing the deliberate
killing of depleted species of dolphins, which this bill does."
   The conservationists say the Gilchrest bill's definition of "dolphin-safe"
does not take into account the various harmful effects of chasing and
encircling dolphins with nets or the fact that many dolphins die in the nets
without being observed. Under current U.S. law, tuna fishermen in the Eastern
Tropical Pacific (ETP) can set nets on schools of tuna not accompanied by
dolphins and on floating objects such as logs to avoid setting nets on
dolphins.  H.R. 2823 advocates setting nets on dolphins again, arguing that
other methods result in high mortality levels of other species like sea
turtles and juvenile tuna.  However, the federal government's own scientists
have admitted that unacceptable levels of sea turtle bycatch are a result of
fisherman killing for food, and that the tuna population has not been
significantly depleted as a result of juvenile tuna being caught.
   Defenders and its coalition support bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep.
George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.), which would retain
the present dolphin-safe standard but would change the current law's trade
provisions to create an incentive for responsible Mexican tuna fishers to
practice dolphin-safe methods.  The Miller/Studds bill would be consistent
with both NAFTA and the GATT/WTO requirements.