End Deceptive “Dolphin-Safe” Label on Tuna

Bottlenose Dolphin with Mouth Open

Target: Stephen Ostroff, Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration

Goal: Require that no dolphins be harmed anywhere with any fishing method in order for companies to use the “dolphin-safe” label.

Currently, approximately 98 percent of the tuna cans sold in the United States feature the “dolphin-safe” label. The labels, however, are actually designed to mislead consumers about the fishing methods used to catch tuna. Most consumers believe that the dolphin-safe label guarantees that no dolphin meat is in their can of tuna. Dolphin-safe actually means only that one particular fishing method was not used in one particular part of the ocean. Thousands of dolphins are killed each year in unmonitored and unregulated fisheries.

The method in question is called “setting on dolphins” and involves circling dolphins with nets to catch the tuna that swims beneath them. Setting on dolphins drastically harmed dolphin populations up through the 1980s. In order to label tuna as “dolphin-safe,” this method may not be used to catch tuna even if no dolphins are actually harmed. Even if this method isn’t used, tuna caught in the eastern Pacific Ocean can only be called dolphin-safe if an independent observer certifies it as such. Tuna caught everywhere else need only be declared dolphin-safe by the ship’s operator.

Major U.S. fish producers catch tuna using a fish aggregation device (FAD), which activists call floating death traps because of the high incidence of non-tuna species killed in the process. The FADs are usually buoys or floats tethered to the ocean floor. Tuna congregate under the floats and are gathered up. In the process, other species which gather at the FADs are gathered, including turtles, sharks, seabirds, and rays. There is currently very little regulation on how these FADs can be used and their effects on the ecosystems have not been studied.

“Dolphin-safe” labels on tuna cans and pouches are, therefore, a fraud. Dolphins may not have been caught as a by-product of setting on dolphins, however, they are certainly caught when FADs are used. Current dolphin-safe labeling laws allow tuna producers to influence consumers through misinformation.

The purpose of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), which is administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is to “facilitate value comparisons and to prevent unfair or deceptive packaging and labeling of many household ‘consumer commodities.’” Clearly, U.S. tuna producers who utilize the dolphin-safe labels are in violation of the FPLA. Including dolphins and other species in tuna cans and pouches and labeling them dolphin-safe is devious and fraudulent. Consumers believe that dolphin-safe means that no dolphins were harmed–not that tuna were not fished using the setting on dolphins method.

By signing this petition, you will urge Commissioner Stephen Ostroff of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration  to ensure that tuna producers do not mislead consumers with deceptive labeling. Prevent dolphins worldwide, not just the eastern Pacific, from being captured and killed by tuna fishermen.


Dear Commissioner Ostroff,

The “dolphin-safe” label found on 98 percent of tuna cans and pouches in the U.S. is both deceptive and misleading. The average consumer believes that the dolphin-safe label means that no dolphins were harmed or killed in the tuna catch and that they are certainly not included in their tuna cans.

The only producers who should be able to use the dolphin-safe label are those in which an independent observer declares that no dolphins were harmed or killed in the catch. This would be a guarantee to the American people that they are not consuming dolphin meat.

We, the undersigned, urge you to clarify the dolphin-safe label so that consumers can make informed decisions about the products they purchase. Protect dolphin populations worldwide and ensure honesty in advertising.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Scott H. Phillips

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