Judge Strikes Down Phony "Dolphin-Safe" Label

On April 11, 2000, Judge Thelton Henderson of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled against the blatant defrauding of consumers by the U.S. government. The judge struck down the new "dolphin-safe" label for canned tuna fish—a label that is distinctly dolphin unsafe. Judge Henderson questioned the diligence of the Department of Commerce in adequately studying the reason for the lack of recovery of several species of dolphins, hard hit for decades in the eastern tropical Pacific.

Despite the death of over seven million dolphins who were chased, exhausted and netted to catch the tuna schools beneath them, Secretary of Commerce William Daley made a preliminary finding last year that there was no proof that this technique of fishing caused "significant adverse impact." His finding triggered the release of a new, official Department of Commerce "dolphin-safe" label for canned tuna fish. The new label would have been used on cans of tuna caught by harassing dolphins. Judge Henderson essentially voided this fraud and sent the government back to the drawing board. His ruling came in the nick of time, with Mexico poised to flood the U.S. with tons of dolphin-deadly tuna.

Thanks to especially vocal consumers, all canned tuna now sold in the United States is caught without netting dolphins. All three major American tuna importers have vowed to continue the present definition of dolphin-safe and reject the phony label.


Photo, Spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata) are one of the two species most heavily impacted by being chased and encircled by tuna nets in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean. (Psarakos/Earthtrust)

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