Dolphin in Canned Tuna

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Canned Tuna Fish. © 2014 Juanmonino/Getty Images, licensed to, Inc.

Question: Is there dolphin in canned tuna?

Answer: As the popularity of tuna increased, particularly canned tuna, commercial fishermen felt pressure to increase supplies. From experience, they learned that in eastern tropical Pacific waters, yellowfin tuna often ran with dolphins. Dolphins were easy to spot, so fishermen would target dolphins with their nets to catch schools of yellowfin swimming beneath.

As a result, millions of dolphin have perished in tuna fishing nets since the 1950's.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 was modified several times in the 1980's in an attempt to curb the mortality rate of dolphins. The "dolphin-safe" labeling campaign in 1990 received enthusiastic public approval, yet the requirements for such labeling still leave loopholes for imported tuna.

The dolphin-safe label requires an observer on each fishing vessel to assure that no dolphins are viewed killed or seriously injured during the tuna harvest. The three most popular commercial canners, Star-Kist®, Chicken of the Sea®, and BumbleBee®, have all pledged to remain "dolphin-safe" regardless of any future potential changes in the law. Many large grocery chains and warehouse stores selling generic canned tuna are also requiring dolphin-safe practices. Check the label.

Advocacy groups continue to lobby for more studies and stricter laws to protect dolphins from net fishermen.

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