Not so dolphin-friendly tuna from Mexico in US supermarkets?

Investigation by EII reveals tuna with suspicious dolphin-safe labels

provided by International Marine Mammal Project


una from Mexico's largest cannery is being sold in US supermarkets throughout California, according to an investigation conducted by Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project. "Dolores" brand tuna, which is caught off the coast of Mexico, often by chasing, netting, and killing dolphins in purse seine nets in order to catch the tuna which swim beneath, sports an "Amigo del Delfin" label, Spanish for "dolphin friendly." But federal law prohibits the use of a "dolphin safe" or "dolphin friendly" label for tuna caught by this fishing method, which has led to the deaths of more than 7 million dolphins over the past four decades.

Earth Island has forwarded the findings to the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces the International Dolphin Conservation Program Act's "dolphin safe" labeling requirements, as well as to the US Customs Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Food and Drug Administration.

David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project, announced: "We have found 'Dolores' brand tuna, bearing the 'dolphin friendly' label, on sale in stores in San Diego, Santa Ana, Oakland, and San Francisco, and we have proof of store sales in Chicago, IL. Under federal law, tuna sold as 'dolphin safe' (or 'dolphin friendly'), must be caught without encircling, killing or seriously injuring any dolphins by the deadly purse seine nets during the entire fishing trip."

"Dolores" brand tuna is canned by the tuna giant PINSA, located in Mazatlan on Mexico's Pacific Coast. PINSA processes 50-60% of Mexico's canned tuna, and has advocated weakening the "dolphin safe" label so that Mexican fishermen can sell dolphin-deadly tuna in the United States and Europe with a "dolphin safe" label.

Phillips continued: "The PINSA cannery in Mexico buys tuna from the Mexican fleet of dolphin-killing boats, including their own fleet, Pesca Azteca. Their operation is believed to be responsible for more dolphin deaths than any other cannery in the world."

"Foreign canneries, including Mexican, can legally use the 'dolphin safe' label, if they meet the same strong dolphin-safe standards that the US tuna fleet and other fleets do -- no chasing and netting of any dolphins. We believe PINSA's 'Dolores' brand tuna may be being smuggled into the United States with a false 'dolphin friendly' label, fooling consumers and hoodwinking the US Customs and National Marine Fisheries Service who are supposed to be enforcing our conservation laws for dolphins.

"Earth Island Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, and many other groups sued the Clinton/Gore Administration to block the use of the phony 'dolphin safe' label on tuna," Phillips continued. "We won our case last April, which may have led to this apparent violation of the dolphin protection law."


Court action

On April 11, 2000, Judge Thelton Henderson ruled in David Brower v. William Daley that former Secretary of Commerce (and now leader of Vice President Gore's Presidential Campaign) William Daley "acted contrary to the law and abused his discretion when he triggered a change in the dolphin safe label standard on the ground that he lacked sufficient evidence of significant adverse impacts. Indeed it would flout the statutory scheme to permit the Secretary to fail to conduct mandated research, and then invoke a lack of evidence as a justification for removing a form of protection for a depleted species, particularly given that the evidence presently available to the Secretary is all suggestive of a significant adverse impact."

It is believed that as many as 5 MILLION CANS of "Dolores" brand tuna may have been smuggled into the United States this year alone across the border for distribution to Mexican specialty food stores throughout California and the rest of the country. If so, it is likely that other laws may be being broken as well, including customs and health and safety regulations designed to protect consumers.

"The Clinton/Gore Administration is responsible for the import and sale of tuna in accordance with the law," charged Phillips. "Instead, the Administration has confused consumers and fought to weaken the strong US 'dolphin safe' standards. The American public has demonstrated again and that they will not buy tuna stained by the blood of dolphins."

Consumer Alert!

Earth Island Institute is undertaking an important investigation. Contact Earth Island Institute with any information on sale of "Dolores" brand tuna in the United States! If you see "Dolores" brand canned tuna for sale in the United States, please contact them with the NAME and ADDRESS of the store where it is for sale and the date (see contact info below).

"Dolores" tuna comes in a white label (in water) or a red/gold label (in oil). Thank you for your help!


International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
300 Broadway, Suite 28
San Francisco, CA 94133
David Phillips (415) 788-3666 x145
Mark J. Palmer (415) 788-3666 x139