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Secret Dolphin Study Report Released!

Earth Island Institute Releases Bush Administration Report Showing Dolphin

Slaughter in Tuna Nets Continues

Courtesy International Marine Mammal Project


Contacts: Earth Island Institute
David Phillips (415) 788-3666
Mark J. Palmer (415) 788-3666

(San Francisco) - Earth Island Institute has released a secret U.S. government report and posted a copy on the Earth Island Website at (Size: ~1 MB). Prepared by scientists in the Bush Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the report reveals that thousands of dolphins, especially baby dolphins, are still dying in tuna nets in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), largely in tuna fleets owned by tuna millionaires in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and other nations. Earth Island believes the Bush Administration is hiding this damning report because it undermines its attempt to falsely label dolphin-deadly tuna as “Dolphin Safe.”

“For the first time, NMFS has officially acknowledged the massive and previously uncounted killing of baby dolphins that are separated from their mothers during chase and capture by tuna vessels using mile-long nets,” stated David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project. “This is a shocking and tragic revelation.”

“This Report on NMFS scientists’ dolphin research clearly shows that the technique favored by the Mexican tuna fleet and other nations to catch tuna causes significant harm to dolphins,” Phillips continued. “The Secretary of Commerce would have to defy science, common sense, and the law in order to weaken the U.S. federal standards for the use of the ‘Dolphin Safe’ tuna label in light of the report. This secret report reveals that dolphin numbers are severely depleted and not recovering. Weakening the ‘Dolphin Safe’ tuna label would simply increase the slaughter.”

The secret report, an accumulation of government research conducted from 1997 to 2002, includes the following new findings:

• Despite low reported dolphin kills from the tuna fleets, dolphin populations remain seriously depleted. Eastern Spinner dolphins remain at only 35% of their former numbers; Northeastern Offshore Spotted dolphins are at only 20% of their former numbers;

• More importantly, the research shows that dolphins are NOT recovering as expected. By some calculations, the populations may still be declining. By one analysis, it would take 65 years for depleted Eastern Spinner dolphins to recover, while depleted Northeastern Offshore Spotted dolphins would take 78 years to recover. Another analysis, equally supported by the data, projects that neither species would recover after 200 years.

• At least an additional 6-10% of Eastern Spinner dolphin mortality and an additional 10-15% of Northeastern Offshore Spotted dolphin mortality is occurring due to separation of dependent baby dolphins from their mothers during the chasing and netting process, and the percentage is likely higher.

• Nets are set on schools of dolphins 7,500 times EACH YEAR, resulting in the chasing of 9.3 million dolphins EACH YEAR and the capture in nets of 2.3 million dolphins EACH YEAR. Individual dolphins in the ETP are chased an average of 5.6 times EACH YEAR and captured an average of 0.7 times EACH YEAR for depleted Eastern Spinner dolphins and chased 10.6 times EACH YEAR and captured 3.2 times EACH YEAR for depleted Northeastern Offshore Spotted dolphins. The Report states that physiological stress (resulting in decreased births, impaired health, and deaths of dolphins) is a plausible explanation for the lack of recovery of depleted dolphin populations.

• There is no evidence of any environmental changes that could account for the magnitude of the lack of recovery of dolphin populations. Indeed, the carrying capacity of the ETP for dolphins would have to decrease three- to four-fold in order to account for the lack of recovery of dolphins.

•In conclusion, the tuna fishery is clearly the reason for the dolphins’ lack of recovery. No other explanation fits the research data or the facts.

The Secretary of Commerce has until the end of December to make a finding as to whether the chasing and netting of dolphins causes “significant adverse impacts” on depleted dolphin populations. A finding of “no significant adverse impacts” would automatically weaken the standards for use of the “Dolphin Safe” tuna label, allowing a flood of falsely labeled imported tuna from Latin American nations.

“The American public deserves to know the truth about how tuna was caught,” Phillips stated. “The Bush Administration is sitting on this explosive report on the dangers of chasing and netting dolphins. The Secretary of Commerce is posed to decide to deliberately lie to American consumers to benefit a small handful of Mexican tuna millionaires and drug lords, who would be able import tuna to the U.S. using a phony “Dolphin Safe” label. All of the major U.S. and European tuna processors have pledged not to buy or sell such tuna. American consumers won’t buy tuna stained by the blood of dolphins!”

Earth Island Institute is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to protecting the diversity of life on Earth. The International Marine Mammal Project works to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals around the world. VIDEO AVAILABLE: Broadcast quality video footage by Samuel LaBudde of the devastating effects of tuna nets on dolphins is available by calling Earth Island (415) 788-3666.

For more information contact:
International Marine Mammal Project
David Phillips (415) 788-3666
Mark J. Palmer (415) 788-3666

If you experience difficulty downloading the report mentioned above, click here to download from an alternative site