Sierra Club
Sierra Club Press Release

For Immediate Release

May 16, 2012

Contact: Dan Byrnes, (202) 495-3039


World Trade Organization Rules Against Dolphin-Safe Standards


Geneva – Today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body found that the popular and successful dolphin-safe tuna labeling program violates trade rules. Mexico brought the WTO case against the U.S. in 2008.


The U.S. will now have to decide how to comply with the WTO’s decision. This could include allowing Mexico to use dolphin-safe labels without changing their harmful fishing practices or imposing the labeling program requirements all around the globe, an untargeted method that would be very costly and inefficient.


In response, Margrete Strand Rangnes, Labor and Trade Director for the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:


“Since the dolphin-safe tuna label program started in 1990, dolphin deaths in the tuna industry have been reduced by a remarkable 98 percent. Today’s WTO decision is a huge disappointment which could weaken the conservation of dolphins and broader environmental protection.


“Consumers have the right to know what they’re eating, and the fact that an unaccountable trade tribunal in Geneva is interfering with a successful, non-discriminatory and voluntary labeling system is outrageous. The WTO decision raises serious questions for the future of other legitimate labeling programs and opens the door to further attacks on consumer protections and environmental standards.


“This ruling is especially troubling in light of the negotiations that are currently taking place for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive new trade agreement that would have far-reaching implications for citizens and economies across the globe. These negotiations are happening in great secrecy, but every indication shows that programs like the dolphin-safe label could be vulnerable to similar attacks under this agreement.


“Trade laws should not be used to weaken standards that protect consumers and our environment. The Sierra Club urges U.S. government to continue their work to defend the dolphin-safe labeling program and other programs like it.”