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May 17, 2012

World Trade Organization Ruling Threatens Future of U.S. Dolphin-Safe Labeling Law

Objections voiced by The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International

Humane Society International

    The U.S. implemented the "Dolphin Safe" label to certify that tuna is caught without deliberately targeting dolphins. Dmitriy Filippov/istock

WASHINGTON—The Humane Society of the United States and its global arm, Humane Society International, are dismayed by a World Trade Organization ruling that finds the U.S. Dolphin-Safe label for tuna sold in the United States does not comply with certain WTO rules. To implement the ruling, U.S. lawmakers potentially could repeal or weaken the label – a bleak prospect for consumers and the dolphins. 

“The WTO ruling ignores extensive scientific evidence of the harm caused by targeting dolphins as a means to catch tuna, and overreaches as a matter of law,” said Kitty Block, vice president of HSI. “It leaves the door open for Congress to repeal or weaken the label, marking this decision a huge loss for dolphins, and undermining the legitimacy of a label millions of consumers have grown to trust.”

HSI has been on the frontlines of international dolphin protection for several decades and submitted briefs to the WTO supporting the U.S. position that the Dolphin-Safe label rules need to remain intact.

Prior to enactment of the U.S. Dolphin Safe label in 1991, millions of dolphins were killed as a result of a fishing method that intentionally targets and deploys nets on dolphins to capture the tuna swimming beneath them. The label stemmed this massive slaughter by giving consumers the choice to purchase tuna products that are truly “dolphin safe.”  The U.S. label does not prohibit trade in tuna products, and countries have the option of using the label on their tuna products if they do not engage in this type of fishing method. Many countries voluntarily use the label, yet, over the years since the label’s introduction, Mexico continually has refused to change its practices and instead seeks to weaken the criteria for the label to its commercial advantage.

To read the WTO Appellate Body report, please 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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