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September 15, 2011

HSI and The HSUS Disappointed by World Trade Organization Ruling on Dolphin Protection

Groups urge U.S. government to appeal ruling on “dolphin-safe” tuna labeling

Humane Society International

WASHINGTON—Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States 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, HSI and The HSUS 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. “HSI and The HSUS 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.

To read a letter from HSI and other NGO's to President Obama and VP Biden on this issue, click here.


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Humane Society International is the international arm of The Humane Society of the United States, one of the world's largest animal protection organizations - backed by 11 million people. HSI is creating a better future for animals and people through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide—On the web at hsi.org.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization—backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty—On the web at humanesociety.org.

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