The 1997 Amendments and Subsequent Administration Action

Published: 2021-06-29 07:05:44
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The 1997 Amendments and Subsequent Administration Action:
Between 1990 -- when the Dolphin-Safe label was created -- and 1997, non-dolphin-safe
tuna could not be imported or sold in the United States. Because the United States consumes
much of the world's harvest of tuna, this made it very difficult for foreign countries that
continued to catch tuna by chasing and encircling dolphins to find markets for their tuna. They
complained to the U.S. President and also asked Congress to change the Marine Mammal
Protection Act to allow their tuna to be sold in the U.S. In 1997, Congress amended the Marine
Mammal Protection Act to end the embargo and to allow the U.S. Department of Commerce to
weaken the dolphin-safe label, provided certain conditions were met. Although Congress wanted
to end the embargo and allow the importation of tuna, Congress remained concerned that the
physical stress dolphins suffered during chase and encirclement would impede the recovery of
dolphin populations. The amended Marine Mammal Protection Act instructed the Secretary of
Commerce to conduct a series of studies concerning, among other things, the stress effects of
purse seine fishing on dolphins. If it were shown that the practice is not hurting dolphin
populations, then tuna caught using the chase and encirclement method could be labeled dolphinsafe,
provided an on-board observer certified that no dolphins were observed killed or seriously
injured in the process. If and only if the Secretary made a finding of no significant adverse
impacts could a new and weakened standard for the "dolphin-safe" label take effect; tuna caught
by the chase and encirclement of dolphins could then be labeled "dolphin-safe," so long as no
dolphins were observed to have been killed or seriously injured during the set.
Experts from the National Marine Fisheries Service ("NMFS"--an agency of the
Department of Commerce) have found that these species have not recovered to anticipated
population levels. Read the official government report by NMFS. In fact, at least one still
appears to be declining, indicating that years of setting tuna nets on these dolphins has indeed
had a significant harmful effect on their populations. The studies also showed that chasing and
encircling dolphins causes physiological stress and injuries, separates mothers from dependent

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