New regs tighten labeling standards for dolphin-safe tuna

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is issuing more stringent regulations on tuna harvesters in an effort to protect dolphins that often get caught in fishing nets.

Revisions to the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA) will create new labeling standards for tuna products that are either exported from or sold in the United States.

The action, which was announced Monday and is set to take effect Saturday, involves new reporting requirements for companies that track, catch and can tuna, as well as new on-ship storage rules.

The regulations are designed to provide consumers with a greater assurance that no dolphins were harmed in the making of their tuna fish sandwiches and to satisfy the country’s obligation under World Trade Organization rules, NOAA said in a notice to be published in Tuesday’s Federal Register.

Dolphins often swim with certain types of tuna caught in the eastern Pacific, and the mammals frequently get nabbed when fisherman encircle entire schools with massive nets known as purse seines.

Reasoning that “consumers would like to know if the tuna they purchase is falsely labeled as to the effect of the harvesting of the tuna on dolphins,” Congress passed the DPCIA in 1990 to set minimum criteria for when dolphin-safe designations are allowed.

Those companies who use the label are subject to fines of up to $100,000 if they are found to be out of compliance.