Subject: 'Dolphin Death Act' Stopped!
Sun, 6 Oct 96 22:06:00 GMT

'Dolphin Death Act' Stopped!

    WASHINGTON and SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Earth Island
Institute applauded Friday the fact that the "Dolphin Death Act," H.R.2823 and
S.1420, has been stopped in the U.S. Senate and will not become law.
    "These bills would have crippled dolphin protection and misled millions of
Americans," explained David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute.
"Thanks to the public outcry and to the leadership of Senator Barbara Boxer
(D-CA) and the bipartisan group of Senators and House members, the dolphin-
safe label is safe."
    Phillips attributed the demise of the Dolphin Death Act to the following:
    The American public would not accept the trashing of the successful
Dolphin Safe tuna program.  S.1420/H.R.2823 would have dropped the current
U.S. ban on the import and sale of tuna caught by methods known to slaughter
thousands of dolphins annually.  S.1420/H.R.2823 would have further misled
consumers by changing the U.S. definition of "dolphin safe" tuna to allow the
chase, harassment, encirclement, and capture of dolphins with deadly nets as
long as an observer did not see any dolphin die outright.  In fact, scientists
suggest that not all dead dolphins would be detected and that others would die
after being released from the nets due to physiological shock and injuries
sustained during chase and capture.
    Congressmembers received tens of thousands of letters and phone calls from
concerned constituents about the Dolphin Death Act.  In the past two weeks
alone, students organized rallies in Washington DC, Mill Valley CA, and in
Malibu CA, in opposition to passage of the Dolphin Death Act.
    Further, a recent analysis of Mexican canned tuna by the Pure Food
Campaign revealed that the health of U.S. pregnant women and their fetuses
could be jeopardized by the flood of almost entirely uninspected Mexican tuna
into U.S. grocery stores if S.1420/H.R.2823 had been passed.  An independent
laboratory found the Mexican tuna samples up to four and a half times as
likely to contain unacceptable levels of mercury contamination as U.S. tuna
samples.  While the results were preliminary in nature, the Pure Food Campaign
strongly urged Congress to cease further consideration of S.1420/H.R.2823
until full-scale medical studies could be conducted.

    Phillips also credited the tenacious fight waged by opponents of the
Dolphin Death Act in the Senate and the House, especially by Senator Boxer and
Representative George Miller (D-CA).  They were helped by many other members,
including Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE), Bob Smith (R-NH), and Harry Reid
(D-NV) and Representatives Gerry Studds (D-MA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Nancy Pelosi
(D-CA), Richard Gephardt (D-MO), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
    S.1420/H.R.2823 was opposed by a coalition of over 85 environmental,
trade, labor, and animal welfare organizations, including Earth Island
Institute, Humane Society of the U.S., Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife,
Friends of the Earth, Fund for Animals, and Ralph Nader's Public Citizen.
Many prominent scientists also expressed opposition to provisions of S.1420,
including Captain Jacques Cousteau, Dr. Albert Myrick, and Dr. Roger Payne.
Despite being vastly outspent by opponents, primarily lobbyists for the
Mexican and Venezuelan fishing industries, the coalition's efforts proved to
be stronger in the waning days of the Congress.
    "The Mexican government and the Clinton Administration badly miscalculated
in thinking they could re-define 'dolphin-safe' tuna," explained David
Phillips.  "They refused to back off the most egregious components of the
Dolphin Death Act.  Now that the bill is dead, it is time to go back and seek
consensus on ways to continue to protect dolphins and the marine environment,
and encourage tuna fishermen to fish in a truly dolphin-safe manner."
    Sens. Barbara Boxer and Joseph Biden and Reps. Gerry Studds and George
Miller offered compromise legislation, S.1460 and H.R.2823, which would have
retained the current strong definition of "dolphin safe" tuna, while
encouraging foreign fishermen by allowing them to sell their dolphin safe tuna
on the U.S. market.  Furthermore, Congressmembers Gerry Studds and Sam Farr
offered amendments to the Dolphin Death Act, rejected by the proponents, that
would have required live release of sea turtles from nets and a reduction in
non-target fish "bycatch" in the nets.
    "More than 90 percent of the world's canned tuna markets are now 'dolphin
safe', according to figures from the United Nations," stated Phillips.  "The
Mexican, Venezuelan, and Colombian governments must realize that the technique
of setting nets on dolphins to catch tuna is cruel, unnecessary, and will
never be acceptable to the American public."
    Earth Island Institute is a nonprofit education and conservation
organization that has worked on dolphin protection since 1987.  The
International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute works to save
dolphins, whales, and other marine mammals around the world.