The Friend of the Sea (FOS) ecolabel will not be rewarded to any tuna fisheries setting nets on dolphins, the organization announced on Monday after receiving requests from two major Latin America tuna vessel owners.
FOS said its sustainability certification requires that tuna suppliers be certified dolphin-safe by the Earth Island Institute, the NGO that has long consulted with the United States on its tuna procurement policy that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has repeatedly ruled discriminatory against the Mexico tuna fleet.
“Setting nets on Dolphins is a practice which implies use of explosives or paint bombs and speedboats to harass and encircle dolphins,” said Dr. Paolo Bray, founder and director of FOS. “Dolphin mortality is unfortunately still allowed by some nations as part of tuna fishing activity in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. This fishing method has lead to a decimation of dolphins populations. No dolphin-killing fleet will ever be certified Friend of the Sea sustainable.”
Last week, the WTO ruled for the third time that the United States is discriminating against Mexico tuna suppliers regarding compliance requirements for U.S. dolphin-safe labels affixed to canned tuna. The debate between the neighboring nations has spanned nearly a quarter-century. The United States stands behind its policy, which requires canners to submit reports about all the tuna in their facilities each month, including data about dolphin interactions, capture areas, trip dates and quantity. Any vessel with a carrying capacity of more than 400 short tons must have an observer on board.
Friend of the Sea clearly stands behind the U.S. and Earth Island Institute policy, which dates back to 1990. The fishing method at issue is known as “fishing on dolphins,” a practice in which fishing vessels track tuna by following leaping dolphins, known to swim in proximity to tunas, particularly in the area in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean in which the Mexican fleet operates. The dolphin-safe label is a certification that no nets were intentionally set on dolphins in the set in which the tuna was caught; and no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets in which the tuna was caught.
“Certification of such a dolphin-targeting fishery as sustainable would be misleading for consumers,” Bray continued. “The certifying eco-label will be associated to a cruel and wasteful fishing practice which has killed millions of dolphins over the years.”