Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP)

Humane Society International

The Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP) is a legally binding, multilateral agreement that entered into force in February 1999. The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) implements and provides the Secretariat for the program.

This agreement was established, in part, as a result of the U.S. Dolphin Conservation Act, misleadingly-named legislation that was passed in 1997 over the objections of many animal and environmental organizations. Among other things, the Dolphin Conservation Act weakened the definition of the “Dolphin Safe” label and lifted the tuna embargoes against countries that set nets on dolphins. The AIDCP has adopted most of the provisions of the U.S. Dolphin Conservation Act, thereby supporting a weakened definition of the “Dolphin Safe” label.

The countries that have ratified or acceded to the AIDCP are Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Perú, the United States, Vanuatu, Venezuela and the countries of the European Union. Bolivia and Colombia are applying the AIDCP provisionally.

The countries that are party to this agreement are not exporting their tuna to the United States because of lawsuits that successfully challenged the weakening of the “Dolphin Safe” label. In August 2004, U.S. Federal Judge Thelton Henderson ruled in our favor and upheld the “Dolphin Safe” standards, stating that the U.S. government ignored the advice of its own scientists when it attempted to weaken the label. This case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and again the Department of Commerce’s attempt to weaken the definition of the well-known and trusted “Dolphin Safe” label was rejected in April 2007. The government allowed its time to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court run out; therefore, “Dolphin Safe” standards continue to prohibit the chasing or netting of dolphins.