Blog | Dolphin Safe Tuna Explained

Dolphin Safe Tuna Explained

January 29, 2015 by Mark Palmer, Save Japan Dolphins

By Mark J. Palmer
Associate Director
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute

In 1990, Earth Island's International Marine Mammal Project convinced the US tuna industry that they should adopt a strong policy to end the killing of dolphins in tuna nets.  Many companies from around the world have joined in.  Since that time, Earth Island has been monitoring tuna fishing all around the world to ensure the Dolphin Safe standards are maintained.

Puzzled about Dolphin Safe tuna?  Well, here are some facts:

--> One year without Dolphin Safe regulations would amount to more than 100 years of Taiji dolphin slaughters.

--> 7 MILLION dolphins were killed in tuna purse seine nets from 1950 until the Dolphin Safe program began, making it the most devastating killing of marine mammals in world history.

--> During the 1980s: 80,000 to 100,000 dolphins were killed every year, until the Dolphin Safe program began in 1990.

--> Fast-forward to 2014:  More than 95% of world canned tuna industry now abides by Dolphin Safe’s ban on all intentional chase, capture or killing of dolphins.

--> International observers document approx. 1000 dolphins killed per year by vessels that don’t abide by the Dolphin Safe Program, mostly by Mexican fleets.



--> In the Western & Central Tropical Pacific Ocean (largest tuna fishing grounds in the world), vessels have 100% observer coverage, and international regulations PROHIBIT intentional encirclement of dolphins.  Observers document Dolphin Safe tuna fishing practices, catching tuna without dolphin mortality.

--> In 2014, 508 tuna companies, importers, and retailers were monitored by Earth Island’s Dolphin Safe Program, which conducted 768 inspections of tuna operations in 70 countries.

--> The EII no-encirclement Dolphin Safe definition & standards were written into federal law 25 years ago in United States in 1990.

You can learn more about Dolphin Safe tuna by going to our short facts list here.

You can learn even more by going to our website for consumers here.


Graphic by Laura Bridgeman/Earth Island Institute

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Dolphin Safe Tuna Explained