What are Purse Seiners and is Your Tuna Dolphin Safe?

Purse seiners are big fishing nets that catch tuna and kill dophins.  They’re not good for the tuna, either.

David Jolly, writing in a NY Times Blog, doesn’t know what should be done to save the bluefin tuna harvested with these nets.  He explains:

I can note that virtually everyone I’ve spoken with on this question does say that the stock of bluefin will collapse if the giant purse seiners that fish the Mediterranean are not reined in. These factory ships – mostly French, Spanish or Italian – vacuum up entire schools of bluefin for fattening before the tuna are sold to Japan.

Purse seiners are also at the heart of US labeling requirements for “dolphin-safe” tuna from the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), mainly Mexican waters.  These requirements are the focus of a ruling expected soon from the WTO’s Appellate Body.  Professor Elizabeth Trujillo of the Suffolk University Law School writes that this case is “the first WTO panel decision to apply the [Technical Barriers to Trade] Agreement to a domestic environmental regulation.”  Professor Trujillo explains the case in detail and why environmental groups and others are upset with the earlier WTO panel decision here.


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