Senator Barbara Boxer Urges Protection for Dolphins
By Mark J. Palmer
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
Senator Barbara Boxer and a host of US Senators have expressed their support for the Dolphin Safe tuna label in two letters sent to the Obama Administration and the Mexican ambassador.
Sent last week to Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the first letter urges the US government, in negotiations to resolve the Dolphin Safe tuna label dispute before the World Trade Organization (WTO), protect the integrity of the Dolphin Safe label and its strong standards.
The WTO claims the US Dolphin Safe tuna label discriminates against Mexican tuna, which is caught by chasing and netting dolphins to catch the tuna that swim beneath. Thousands of dolphins annually die from this fishing practice, including baby dolphins that are separated from their mothers during the chase sequence, when the dolphin pod is herded until exhausted by speedboats. The US Dolphin Safe standards, which all US tuna companies adhere to, do not allow chasing or netting of any dolphins during an entire fishing trip.
Senators Cardin, Rockefeller, Whitehouse, Sanders, Wyden, Blumenthal, Merkley, Feinstein, Snowe, Leahy, Lautenberg, and Cantwell signed Senator Boxer’s letter. Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also signed -- Senator Boxer is Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The second letter from Senator Boxer’s office was addressed to Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan Casamitjana in conjunction with the refusal, so far, of the government of Mexico to cooperate with the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to settle the dispute. Under the provisions of NAFTA, the US can move a trade dispute in the WTO to the NAFTA tribunal, but Mexico has refused to appoint members to the dispute panel of NAFTA, effectively blocking any action for three years. All the Senators noted above (except Senator Kerry) signed this letter, along with Senator Patty Murray.
The two letters from the Senate join an earlier letter signed by members of the US House of Representatives, sponsored by Rep. Nick Rahall, to the Administration also supporting the Dolphin Safe tuna label. See http://savejapandolphins.org/blog/post/dont-weaken-the-dolphin-safe-label-lawmakers-urge-obama
The tuna companies of Mexico (there are only three major companies that can tuna) and the Mexican government should stop efforts to circumvent the internationally recognized Dolphin Safe standards developed by Earth Island Institute in 1990, and stop the drowning of thousands of dolphins annually.
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