NOAA: Tropical Dolphin Populations Improving
Numbers of northeastern offshore spotted dolphins and eastern spinner dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean are increasing after being severely depleted by tuna purse seine nets, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported late last week.
Between 1960 and 1990, the two dolphin populations fell 80 and 70 percent, respectively, when caught accidentally by tuna purse seine nets. Severe restrictions on fishing gear have helped the turnaround.
"These estimates are encouraging because they are consistent with what we would expect to see if these stocks are recovering, now that reported fishery mortality has been dramatically reduced," says Dr. Lisa Ballance, director of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center protected resources division. "However, we have to be careful not to jump to final conclusions. We need to resolve the uncertainties around these estimates before we can definitively say these stocks are recovering."
In 1991, a new U.S. law required canners to meet certain criteria before they could claim their tuna as "dolphin safe." The U.S. Department of Commerce oversees dolphin protection from commercial fisheries and administers its "dolphin safe" logo to tuna canners that meet its standards.