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Canned Mexican tuna. (Photo: Sagarpa)

New US rule for 'Dolphin Safe' labelling to be refuted at WTO

Click on the flag for more information about Mexico MEXICO
Friday, July 12, 2013, 23:20 (GMT + 9)

The Mexican government argues the new US regulation on "Dolphin Safe" labelling requirements is discriminatory against Mexican tuna for exports.

Therefore, it plans to refute the new rule at the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that the US does not meet its obligations to an international body.

If the breach is confirmed, the Mexican government may impose trade retaliation on the neighbouring country, such as the suspension of benefits in various production sectors.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this week issued a final rule to comply with a WTO ruling in 2012 by strengthening the label "Dolphin Safe."

Under this standard, effective from 13 July, 2013, all canned tuna sold in the US labelled as "Dolphin Safe" must be certified to prove that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the tuna fishing process, regardless of the type of gear used or the location where the tuna was caught.

On 16 May last year, the WTO ruled in favour of Mexico in the dispute over the trade restrictive effects caused by such labelling. This international body confirmed that US requirements were discriminatory, affecting Mexican tuna import and trade in the US market and encouraging unsustainable fishing practices.

The Mexican government emphasizes that WTO’s decision confirmed that the fishing methods used by the Mexican fleet responsibly meet the highest international standards for the protection of dolphins and also ensure the sustainability of tuna and of other marine species in the ecosystem.

In addition, it emphasizes that the WTO authority determined that the US regulations do not properly informed consumers about the real harm that is caused to dolphins under the label "Dolphin Safe."

At that time, the WTO granted a 13 month period for the US to be able to comply with the decision, and this period ends on 13 July.

The Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa) recalls that the Mexican government presented formal comments in opposition to the proposed regulatory changes on the US tuna labelling published on 5 April because it felt it did not respect the WTO’s decision.

Now, the US government issued a new regulatory measure this week, but for Mexico "it does not address the WTO’s decision" and maintains two different regulatory regimes:

  • One that has highly effective measures that had been internationally agreed to protect dolphins from the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO);
  • Another one that is flexible and without surveillance, which has been unilaterally established for other fishing areas where fishing fleets such as the one from US operate and in which a high mortality rate of dolphins will continue taking place.

Therefore, the Ministry of Economy and Sagarpa reported that "Mexico will continue defending the national fisheries sector and the sustainability of fisheries in the WTO and other international forums."

Related article:

- Dolphin-safe tuna label criteria strengthened

By Analia Murias
[email protected]


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