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Agreement with Government Lawyers Protects Dolphins Pending Hearing for A Preliminary Injunction

International Marine Mammal Project

San Francisco -- Earth Island Institute

January 9, 2003

Temporary Stay in Dolphin Lawsuit

(San Francisco) Earth Island Institute today announced that the US attorneys representing the Department of Commerce and EII have reached an agreement to keep the status quo for the "Dolphin Safe" tuna label pending a Preliminary Injunction hearing, set for March 10th or as soon after that as the court calendar permits. The agreement is awaiting a signature by the presiding federal judge Martin Jenkins in San Francisco. The lawsuit is Earth Island Institute v Evans.

"This temporary agreement means the strong standards for the 'Dolphin Safe' tuna label will continue until the court has a chance to weigh the legal issues," stated David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project. "The US government has agreed to publish the agreement in the Federal Register and to notify appropriate government agencies, including US Customs, to ensure that imported tuna meets the standards of non-encirclement of any dolphins."

"This order ensures that consumers may continue to be confident that the tuna they buy will truly be dolphin safe and that no dolphins were chased or captured in the nets," added Josh Floum, attorney representing Earth Island Institute. "We mean to keep it that way"

On New Years Eve 2002, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans made a finding that the use of purse seine nets to deliberately chase and net dolphins to catch the tuna which swim beneath has "no significant adverse impacts" on depleted dolphin populations. Earth Island Institute and a coalition of environmental and animal welfare groups, led by pro-bono attorneys Josh Floum, Ariela St. Pierre, and Christine Greenwood of the international law firm of Holme, Roberts & Owen, filed a lawsuit within hours challenging the decision. Today's agreement, reached in federal court in San Francisco by all parties, will 'stay" the Evans decision pending a hearing in court on the issues. In the meantime, parties on both sides of the issue will prepare legal briefs for the judge on the pertinent issues.

Plaintiffs in Earth Island Institute v Evans include: Earth Island Institute, biologist Samuel LaBudde, Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Defenders of Wildlife, International Wildlife Coalition, Animal Welfare Institute, Society for Animal Protective Legislation, Animal Fund, and Oceanic Society.

Contacts: Earth Island Institute
David Phillips (415) 788-3666
Mark J. Palmer (530) 758-6022
or (415) 788-3666 x139