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September 15, 2011

Groups Urge U.S. Government to Appeal Ruling on “Dolphin-Safe” Tuna Labeling

The HSUS and Humane Society International disappointed by World Trade Organization ruling on dolphin protection

Humane Society International

The Humane Society of the United States, and its global arm Humane Society International, are disappointed in a World Trade Organization ruling that finds the Dolphin-Safe Label for tuna sold in the United States does not comply with certain WTO rules. The finding by the organization’s dispute panel could result in weakened dolphin protection and consumer confidence in tuna products that are eligible for the label, therefore The HSUS and HSI urged the U.S. Government to appeal.

Fishermen have long exploited the unique association of dolphins and tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape by chasing and encircling herds of dolphins with large nets in order to catch the tuna swimming underneath them. By the 1980s, this technique was resulting in the death of millions of dolphins, with long-lasting consequences for their populations.  In 1991, the U.S. Congress took action, implementing measures that included a prohibition on the use of a dolphin-safe label on tuna caught in such a manner. 

“As a result of the U.S. dolphin-safe label, countless dolphins have been spared unnecessary and inhumane deaths. Consumers trust in this label,” said Kitty Block, vice president of HSI. “The HSUS and HSI urge U.S. trade officials to appeal the unfavorable aspects of the ruling in order to maintain the integrity of the label and dolphins' safety.”

Mexico, which has one of the largest tuna fleets in the eastern Pacific, challenged the U.S. measure in international tribunals and U.S. courts, with the latest challenge launched in 2008 at the WTO. HSI has been on the frontlines of international dolphin protection for several decades, and along with American University's Washington College of Law submitted an amicus curiae brief to the WTO supporting the U.S. position. Parties have 60 days to appeal the ruling to the WTO Appellate Body. 

To read the WTO panel report, please click here.

Media Contact: Martin Montorfano, 301-258-3152, mmontorfano@humanesociety.org

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