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What REALLY happens to dolphins in the Mexican tuna fisheries


HOT TOPICS - Mexico and the tuna-dolphin fisheries

ATUNA posted - 15th July 2002

ECBC posted - 28th May 2003

First of all, let us please congratulate those responsible for the maintenance of the “Atuna” web page, as we believe it seems to be an interesting instrument to discuss different topics regarding the fascinating world of worldwide tuna fishing.

As for ourselves, we are a group of friends composed of active or recently retired fishermen, who are interested in the fishing world. Most of us have been fishing in the Pacific, Indian and even Atlantic Oceans. In the Pacific Ocean (main topic of the document dated 02.07.2002 and named “New Mexican Dolphin-Safe Ruling Awaited in Turmoil”, which we would like to reply), during all these years and up till now we have had the opportunity to get to know in depth the Yellow Fin fishing style that is associated to dolphins.

Proceeding to analyse the contents of the above-mentioned document, we would like to openly declare that, from the very beginning, we are facing a fake argument, as the data provided to the U.S. Government and environmental groups is not correct, and tends to hide a reality that all of us, who have been involved in dolphin related Yellow Fin fishing, know very well. Thus, the number of dolphins that every year die as a result of this fishing style is far from being that of 2.000 specimens, and easily surpasses the 20.000 / 30.000 units.

During the last years, a real strategy has been developed to hide this facts. Following said strategy, divers participating in these activities are instructed to sink the drowned dolphin by making an incision in the dead animalīs body. Afterwards, and using a small gap in the web, the dolphinīs body is driven to the bottom of the sea. In the period of catches close to Costa Ricaīs coast, streams habitually take lots of dolphins dead bodies to the beaches of that country. It is also important to remark that this fishing style, which requires up to ten or twelve men working directly at sea, clearly supposes a high personal risk for those persons lives, who eventually die of digestion problems and other incidents. Both in the year 2000 and the year 2001, crewmembers have passed away due to these causes. Along with that, the year 2001 registered several cases of vessels sailing with no surveyor on board, thus breaching C.I.A.T. rules. At least in one of those cases the alleged reason was the “high strictness” of the surveyor. If necessary, we could provide additional details of those cases in subsequent documents.

We could name dozens of examples where official data does not reflect the real figures of dead dolphins caused by this fishing style but, in order to avoid mentioning an endless list of events, for the time being we shall comment just one more example. In regard to this sort of fishing, each time the skiff (this is to say, the auxiliary craft used to tow the net during the fishing maneuver) suffers a failure while the set is taking place, a massive dolphing killing is produced: several hundreds of these mammals die drowned, as separating the net becomes an impossible task. This kind of failures are more likely to happen in small ships which, at the same time, are habitually the oldest and act widely under the required standards of equipment and maintenance. In case someone reading this text is not fully aware of it, we shall point that nowadays dozens of these ships sail with no surveyor on board, as it is not compulsory to have a surveyor on board those vessels which loading capacity does not exceed 400 tons. Therefore, all those ships are absolutely out of control and, as a result of that situation, their dolphin death results are shown in no statistics.

We do believe that everything that has been pointed so far should enable any objective person to understand which is the true daily scope of the fishing style we are referring to. Given the circumstances, our question is:

When are impartial and accredited scientists going to be allowed to verify this fishing style? We would be most grateful if someone could answer that question but, at the same time, we do advance that no one will, as that would mean showing the truth different interests are everyday trying to hide.

For the time being we shall not give our opinion about the present tracking system (based on the work perfomed by surveyors) and specially we shall not mention our point of view regarding the National Plans for Surveyors, mainly to show our respect for those surveyors wo do perform their duty honestly.

Best regards to all of you.


HOT TOPICS - Mexico and the tuna-dolphin fisheries