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WTO Tells US to Change Tuna Fishing Measures

15 April 2015

GLOBAL - The World Trade Organisation has called on the US to change the requirements it places on tuna fisheries ti bring them in line with generally accepted measures for catches of dolphin-safe tuna.

The US had been taken to the World Trade Organisation disputes panel by Mexico, because the measures the US used to label tuna catches as dolphin-safe constitute a disguised restriction on trade.

Mexico said that the dolphin-safe label is available regardless of nationality of the fishing vessel or the origin of the product.

And it claimed that the US has discriminated arbitrarily and unjustifiably by not working through the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP) to "address its remaining concerns about dolphins and tuna fishing."

However, the US told the WTO that it has engaged in multilateral negotiations with Mexico through the AIDCP process.

In its decision calling on the US to change its measures, the dispute settlement compliance panel concluded that the different tracking and verification requirements impose a lighter burden on tuna caught other than in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) large purse seine fishery.

“We also saw merit in Mexico's arguments that the lighter tracking and verification requirements imposed outside of the ETP large purse seine fishery may make it more likely that tuna caught other than by large purse seine vessel will be incorrectly labelled as dolphin-safe, although we did not find it necessary to make a definitive finding on that point,” the panel said.

The panel agreed with Mexico that the lesser burden placed on tuna caught other than in the ETP large purse seine fishery, was not rationally related to the amended tuna measure's objective of conserving dolphins by providing information to consumers concerning the dolphin-safe status of tuna products.

The panel added that the extent that the different requirements could also make it easier for tuna caught other than by large purse seine vessel in the ETP to be incorrectly labelled and this would also be inconsistent with the measure's goal of providing accurate information to consumers.

The panel said that the US had not provided any explanation “as to how this differential treatment is related to, let alone justified by, the objectives pursed by the amended tuna measure, which is to provide accurate information to consumers in order to conserve dolphins”.

It said that the different tracking and verification requirements were applied in a manner that constituted unjustifiable and arbitrary discrimination.

Further Reading

You can view the full WTO findings by clicking here.

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