The Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA, 16 U.S.C. 1385)) was enacted November 28, 1990 after several findings were made; that dolphins and other marine mammals were being frequently killed during tuna fishing operations, that a worldwide ban on driftnet fishing was necessary because of the harmful effects on marine mammals, and that consumers had the right to know if the tuna they were purchasing was falsely labeled as dolphin safe.
The DPCIA is codified as part of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and prohibits the false labeling of tuna that was harvested using methods harmful to dolphins. Tuna canners must submit a report of all tuna received at their facility in each calendar month. Data elements include the dolphin-safe status, species, condition, ocean area of capture, catcher vessel, trip dates and quantity.
The United States is a member of both the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the International Dolphin Conservation Program. The IATTC has set an area of the eastern pacific to monitor and ensure the effective conservation and management of highly migratory fish. The monitoring area creates a square from the western coast of California just north of Sacramento to the southern end of Chile to 150°W (Coast of America’s, 40°N, 40°S, 150°W). Due to its involvement in the IATTC and the statutory language of the DPCIA the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (CA federal court) has routinely held that the Act and provisions within be strictly enforced, including directing the Secretary of Commerce to adhere to scientific studies and reassess initial determinations on the danger of purse seine fishing. See Earth Island Inst. V. Hogarth (494 F.3d 757, 2007); Earth Island Inst. v. Evans (256 F.Supp. 2d 1064, 2003); Brower v. Daley (93 F.Supp 2d 1071, 2000).
The DPCIA originally mandated a labeling standard and official seal for “dolphin safe” products. Commercial tuna operations that harvest on the high seas using driftnet or purse seine net fishing and label their catch as “dolphin safe” are in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act and are subject in a civil action to penalties of up to $100,000. Every U.S. tuna purse seine vessel greater than 400 short tons carrying capacity fishing in the Eastern Tropical Pacific must have an IATTC approved observer onboard to oversee every fishing trip. The vessel owners or management of such vessels are responsible for notifying NMFS of the location and expected time of arrival for each completed ETP trip. Upon request, the TTVP will issue a dolphin-safe certificate bearing the Official Mark.
On January 13, 2009 a new rule was promulgated by the Department of Commerce through NOAA that effected Title 50 §216 and 300 legislation. This new rule, among many changes, mandates that all vessels be photographed and all vessel information be collected from any commercial fishing vessels authorized to fish for tuna and tuna-like species within the IATTC boundaries. The new rule also mandated bi-yearly inspections on all authorized vessels.
- Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act Text
- Dolphin Safe Tuna: Labeling Statute
- Fish and Wildlife Resources: Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act Brief History
See also environmental laws of United States Fish and Wildlife Service