World Trade Organization rules against dolphin safe labeling

A World Trade Organization panel has ruled the US "dolphin safe" tuna labeling may unfairly discriminate against Mexico.

According to Reuters, this now raises the possibility of sanctions on US goods.

The dolphin safe labeling system was introduced 20 years ago to protect dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific, the source for almost all of America's tuna.

According to a 2003 BBC article, as many as 300,000 dolphins and whales are killed annually by fishing nets.

Campaigners say the labels have been successful in reducing the number of dolphins killed by tuna fishing fleets, and the system has strong support from the Obama administration and from congress, according to the Guardian.

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The Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, which established the Dolphin Safe Tuna labeling program and monitors tuna companies around the world for compliance, has condemned the decision to do away with the labeling.

IMMP director David Phillips called the decision an outrageous attack that would ensure thousands of dolphins horrible deaths in tuna nets while lying to consumers about the Dolphin Safe status of such tuna.

Phillips and the IMMP will urge the Obama Administration and the US Congress to refuse to weaken the standards for Dolphin Safe tuna.

Mexico's ambassador to the WTO, Fernando de Mateo, called the decision a "big victory."

In a statement Todd Tucker, research director for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch said, "This latest ruling makes truth-in-labeling the latest casualty of so-called ‘trade' pacts, which are more about pushing deregulation than actual trade. Members of Congress and the public will be very concerned that even voluntary standards can be deemed trade barriers."

Under the new ruling, the Obama administration has about 18 months to do away with the dolphin-safe label entirely, or make an exception for Mexican fishermen.

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