The Truth About Dolphin-Safe Labeling

Last week, the NYT Magazine posted an article about canned tuna. It’s a great read by columnist Tejal Rao and gives plenty of reasons why you should eat canned tuna—and she includes a recipe for tuna salad that will have even the haughtiest palates drooling. Honest! Check it out for yourself. But before you do, learn a little bit more about the species, and about the laws that go into labeling the household staple …

kisspng-dolphin-safe-label-tuna-earth-island-institute-fri-dolphin-5ad428a8529067.5361150015238534803382What is “dolphin-safe”
When I first saw a dolphin-safe label, I admit, I thought it meant the can of tuna I was about to eat did not also contain any bits and pieces of dolphin. I’d probably seen all the reruns of the 60s TV series Flipper and like many teenage girls, had developed a fondness for the marine mammals, so the thought of eating dolphin was beyond appalling. I mean who in their right mind could ever do such a thing! (Teenage girl or otherwise.) It would be like eating horse, or dog. Again, beyond appalling. Beyond.

As I got older and more intune with food labeling—especially where seafood is concerned—I learned more about the terminology and the truth about dolphin-safe labeling. And though there’s much more background than I’m giving you here, the gist of the dolphin-safe label is this: A dolphin-safe label on your can of tuna ensures that the tuna you are about to consume was not caught in a method that hunted, encircled or trapped dolphin in the process of fishing for tuna.

The background of the dolphin-safe label
Throughout the ocean, where tuna swim, so do dolphin. Fishermen use speedboats to lure and chase dolphin so they can, by default, find tuna. They then drop purse seines that work like a giant drawstring laundry bag trapping everything that comes in contact with the netting. Hence, they catch their tuna and as a result, also catch dolphin.

The Earth Island Institute estimates that close to 100,000 dolphin were killed each year as a result of tuna fishing bycatch during the 1980s

April, 1988 filmmaker and biologist Sam LaBudde released a video of dolphins caught in a purse seine intended for tuna.

“Drowned or snagged in the net, the dolphins fight a losing battle for life,” said LaBudde. “Some will fall back into the sea as flippers and beaks are broken or ripped out of their bodies, only to become ensnared moments later and be pulled out once again.”

The extreme brutality shown in the video sparked a viral outcry from consumers, lawmakers, environmental groups, and animal rights advocates alike … all calling for a massive boycott of canned tuna fish. In response, major tuna distributors began labeling their tuna “dolphin-safe.” At the time, however, there were no laws in place to govern or authenticate the claim.

A few years later, in 1990, the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act was created and in accordance with the law, “dolphin-safe” is defined as follows: no dolphins were chased, trapped or killed during the fishing for tuna.

Today, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, close to 1,000 dolphin are killed annually in the pursuit of tuna. Not a great statistic, but considering where we were a few decades ago, its most certainly a stepa huge step at thatin the right direction.

This is part three of my series on tuna. Read more: Rethinking tuna: What’s OK to eat, and what’s not and How to grill tuna. Coming up NEXT WEEK on the blog … how to make smoked salmon pizza with crème fraîche.

Want more from The Midwest Mermaid? Be sure to follow along here, and on Instagram for all the latest in seafood news and chews | @shaunanosler

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DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox

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Hey there. I’m Shauna—a West Coast transplant in the landlocked state of Indiana … when I moved here I missed the beaches, the mountains, the desert, the rivers … and it took me a while to find places nearby that paralleled my old stomping grounds. BUT. Now that I’ve lived here for over 15 years, I’ve had time to explore the region and you know what? It’s amazing. There’s so much to do—from skiing in northern Michigan to relaxing lakeside in southern Kentucky to rocking the nightlife in one of the many metropolitan areas. And I love it here. I really do. BUT. I do miss the sea … and the sand and the rush of the waves … the smell of seawater … even the sting of too much sun after a day spent lollygagging at the beach. And I miss the constant supply of seafood and shellfish and riverfish? About that … since I’ve moved to the Midwest I’ve noticed that a lot of people here don’t consider fish that come from the river seafood … I’m not sure I agree, but hence the new word I’ve created, “riverfish” … time will tell if Webster picks it up ; ) So this little blog is my way of bringing a little bit of sea life (or is it sealife?) to the Midwest. Here you’ll find all kinds of information … some that you might find more useful than others—like where to find the best seafood (and riverfish) in the Midwest. And some, you might just find amusing … or not. Either way, and if nothing else, I hope you leave my little space here on the world wide web a little refreshed and maybe even a little inspired to bring a little bit of the ocean home with you. (Yes, I did use the word “little” four times in one sentence … it’s OK … mermaids like to repeat themselves.) Cheers! The Midwest Mermaid Oh, and if your curious, yes, I do actually write for a living … if you want to know about the organizations I work with and the publications where you can find my land legs, swim on over to the “Portfolio” tab … and thanks for visiting.

One thought on “The Truth About Dolphin-Safe Labeling

  1. I watched a film years ago that some pods of dolphins teach their young to gather around the edge of the net floats so the fishermen can let them out by lowering the float line enough to let them jump over.

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