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Environmental Group Enlists Starkist in Tighter Dolphin-Free Tuna Campaign

November 14, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ An environmental group said Thursday it has enlisted Starkist Seafood Co. in its efforts to tighten worldwide monitoring of tuna fishing and refit ships to protect dolphin.

StarKist will begin displaying the ″Flipper Seal of Approval″ on its tuna cans for adhering to the new standards, said Don White, president of Earthtrust, a dolphin-protection group based in Hawaii.

All three leading U.S. tuna canners agreed last year to halt buying tuna caught in nets that also trapped dolphins. President Bush signed a bill that set labeling standards for products billed ″Dolphin Safe.″

Terms of tighter standards Earthtrust advocates include having tuna canners agree to buy only tuna cleared by an official observer, refit their own fleets and suppliers’ boats so they can fish where tuna and dolphins do not associate, and pay an unspecified fee to support a worldwide monitoring program.

The other leading U.S. canners - Bumble Bee Seafoods Inc. and Van Kamp Seafood, maker of Chicken of the Sea tuna - were asked to adopt the tighter standards but haven’t agreed to, said John Lindelow, director of the Flipper seal program.

J. Watties Food Ltd., the largest tuna company in New Zealand, as well as three small tuna companies have agreed to participate.

The plight of dolphins trapped by fishermen with schools of tuna has been a prominent concern of environmentalists. The intelligent mammals usually drown as boats haul in the nets.

The ″Dolphin Safe″ measure Bush signed in November 1990 also banned use of large-scale drift nets in U.S. waters up to 200 miles offshore and their use by domestic fishing fleets anywhere in the world.

The nets - which can extend up to 40 miles - have been blamed for the deaths of thousands of dolphins, other sea mammals and birds caught in their paths as they float through the water to trap tuna and other commercial fish.

Before canners agreed to buy only ″Dolphin Safe″ tuna, environmentalists estimated more than 100,000 dolphins died each year in the eastern Pacific Ocean, a fertile fishing ground where dolphin and tuna swim together.

Many tuna boats have moved to the western Pacific and Indian oceans, where tuna and dolphins swim separately, industry officials say.

But while the U.S. tuna fleet has altered its fishing techniques, many foreign fleets are still killing hundreds of thousands of dolphins annually with various netting methods, Earthtrust said.