Clearing the Confusion
Over "Dolphin Safe" Tuna

The U.S. Definition of "Dolphin Safe"

In 1991, Clear and logical definitions of "dolphin safe" were established by the Dolphin Safe Consumer Information Act. However, in 1997, all such laws were re-defined by the IDCPA. The new definition of "dolphin safe" is quite complex, includes an allowable 'kill quota' for "dolphin safe" products, and has been challenged in court by a number of conservation organizations which contend that it obscures a huge number of cryptic dolphin deaths. In fact, under the U.S. laws implementing the IDCPA 'dolphin safe' definition, we apparently are not legally allowed to say bad things about the IDCPA program which could "mislead" consumers about its effectiveness. So do a little study and come to your own conclusions. Clearly, though, this revised definition of 'dolphin safe' does not even CLAIM to mean 'zero dolphins killed'.

U.S. tuna firms complain that they have been locked out of the Eastern Tropical Pacific by the new federal definitions, since the "dolphin safe" policies of the tuna firms do not allow them to purchase tuna caught under the IDCPA's ETP guidelines.

A problem with any 'national legislative' standard, is that a tuna company could be catching both "dolphin safe" and "dolphin unsafe" tuna, and selling the dolphin-unsafe tuna through other outlets (like to restaurants or institutions) or in other countries.

"Dolphin Safe" as Determined by Earth Island Institute
The leading conservation organization monitoring the international tuna industry is Earth Island Institute. Ell has an extensive independent monitoring program that keeps a close eye on the tuna industry worldwide. This monitoring program is independent of any government or tuna industry influence. Based on their investigations, Ell maintains a list of tuna firms that it has reason to believe are operating in a manner that does not harm dolphins. Their high standards for dolphin safety are substantially the same as those required for the Flipper Seal of Approval. Ell's "International Marine Mammal Project" can be reached at the following address for a complete list of tuna firms that have met their tough dolphin-safe criteria:

International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
300 Broadway, Suite 28
San Francisco, CA 94133
Phone:(415) 788-3666
FAX: (415) 788-7324

"Dolphin Saving" as Certified by the Flipper Seal of Approval
The Flipper Seal is for those tuna firms that (1) meet the "dolphin safe" laws of the nations in which they do business, and (2) additionally have met the tough requirements defined by Earth Island Institute, and who (3) wish to go beyond "dolphin safe" to become "dolphin saving" tuna firms. To license the Flipper Seal, a tuna firm must not only be "dolphin safe" by these conservation standards, it must contribute licensing fees to a nonprofit dolphin-saving program, and it must take other steps--such as initiating educational programs on dolphins or sponsoring research on alternate fishing methods--to further promote the welfare of dolphins.

The Flipper Seal of Approval is a way for tuna firms to show the buying public that they have met the toughest standards for dolphin safety that exist today, and that they have chosen to go beyond simply not harming dolphins to helping dolphins. It is how some of the very best tuna firms prove their strong commitment to helping dolphins, while killing NO dolphins.

The Flipper Seal of Approval is a program of Earthtrust, a nonprofit wildlife conservation organization headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Flipper Program was developed by Earthtrust as a market-based approach to preserving one of the world's most intelligent mammals--the dolphin.


Windward Environmental Center
1118 Maunawili Road
Kailua, HI 96734 USA
(808) 261-5339

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