||Frequently Asked Questions
- What does dolphin-safe mean?
The Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (16 U.S.C. §1385)
describes the conditions in which tuna product may be labeled
dolphin-safe in the United States. For the text of the Act,
NOAA has implemented the Act by regulation, which among other things
includes more specific documentary requirements; the regulations are
part 216, subpart H, of Title 50 of the Code of Federal
- Where and why are dolphins caught?
In portions of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP), large yellowfin tuna swim
together with several species of dolphins. This ecological association of tuna and
dolphins is not clearly understood. During "porpoise fishing" (the fishermen's
term), schools of tuna are located by first spotting the dolphins or the seabird flocks
which are also associated with the fish. Speedboats are used to chase down the dolphins,
herd them into a tight group, and set the net around them. The tuna-dolphin bond is so
strong that the tuna stay with the dolphins during this process, and thus tuna and
dolphins are captured together in the net. Dolphins are released from the net during the
backdown procedure. If all goes well, the dolphins are released alive, but the process
requires skill by the captain and crew, proper operation of gear, and conducive wind and
sea conditions. As with any complicated procedure at sea, things can go wrong, and when
they do, dolphins may be killed. For a more exhaustive discussion of this subject, please
- Where is the ETP?
The ETP as defined in 50 CFR § 216.3 means the eastern tropical
Pacific Ocean which includes the Pacific Ocean area bounded by 40°
N. latitude, 40° S. latitude, 160° W. longitude and the coastlines
of North, Central and South America.
- Is all canned tuna, legally sold in the U.S., dolphin-safe?
No. While the vast majority of the canned tuna sold in the U.S. has been certified as
dolphin-safe, Federal Regulations allow U.S. processors and importers to purchase and sell
non dolphin-safe tuna. The tuna must have originated from a U.S. purse seine vessel in
sets where dolphins were accidentally killed or seriously injured, from a U.S. purse seine
vessel with an AIDCP Dolphin Mortality Limit (DML), or from foreign purse seine vessels
flagged by a country that has obtained an affirmative finding from the Assistant
Administrator. However, non dolphin-safe tuna products must not bear any marks or labels
that indicate otherwise. It should be noted that no U.S. purse seine vessels currently
have an AIDCP DML.
- What is an affirmative finding?
An "affirmative finding" is a set of criteria the United States imposes on
nations wishing to import yellowfin tuna into the U.S. in order for the importing nation
to comport with our environmental laws and requirements regarding dolphin-safe tuna.
For a more detailed explanation, click here.
- Does non dolphin-safe canned tuna contain dolphin meat?
No. Canned tuna has never contained dolphin/mammal by-products. Non dolphin-safe canned
tuna is a fishery product that has not been certified as meeting the U.S. definition of
- Does all tuna, certified to be dolphin-safe, have to be labeled dolphin-safe?
No. Federal regulations do not require a product to be labeled dolphin-safe.
- Are dolphin-safe certifications by private companies or non-governmental organizations
recognized by the U.S. Government?
No. The only dolphin-safe certification process recognized by the U.S. Government as
satisfying all applicable federal regulations is the one implemented by the NOAA Fisheries
Service Tuna Tracking & Verification Program.
- Is there a fee associated with Federal dolphin-safe certification?
- Is it true that millions of dolphins have died in the ETP as a result of the tuna purse
Yes. Between 1959 and 1976 it is estimated that over 6 million dolphin mortalities
occurred in association with the ETP tuna purse seine fishery. However, since that time
the numbers have dropped dramatically. For example, according to IATTC
estimates, the total annual mortality of dolphins in the fishery has
been reduced from about 132,000 in 1986 to less than 1,200 in 2008--about 0.01% of the population.