Dolphin-safe label: a bone of contention. Dolphin-safe label.

Mexico wins ruling on tuna labels—again

World Trade Organization upholds earlier decision on dolphin-safe labelling

Mexico won a ruling this week in a long-running trade dispute with the United States over the labeling of tuna products.


The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the U.S. requirement that labels declare the tuna to be “dolphin-safe” is unfair to Mexican fishermen because “less favorable treatment” is given to Mexican tuna products because the rules set different requirements based on where a fish is caught.

The decision upholds a ruling made last April that found the rules discriminated against Mexico. WTO appeals judges said the U.S. had “not brought its dolphin-safe labeling regime for tuna products into conformity with the recommendations and rulings” of the trade organization.

The ruling is final and allows Mexico to seek compensation for losses to the fishing industry that are estimated to be in the millions, accrued over more than 20 years.

Until conservation measures were introduced, millions of dolphins used to be killed in the process of catching yellowfin tuna in the eastern Pacific Ocean, where the two species swim together.

Mexican fishermen set their nets on dolphin schools in order to target the tuna, and then release the dolphin bycatch.

Mexico claims that its conservation efforts have reduced dolphin deaths to levels below thresholds allowed in the U.S. Two years ago it was reported that the bycatch had been reduced by more than 99%, bringing the total to about 1,000 dolphins a year.


Over several decades, from the 1950s on, dolphin deaths attributed to all fishing fleets were estimated at 150,000 a year.

The imported canned tuna market in the U.S., in which Mexico has about a 3.5% share, was estimated to be worth $680 million last year. Mexico argues that the labeling rules have frozen its fishing industry out of that market.

The Economy Secretariat said the ruling confirms once again Mexico’s position, that the labeling rules violate the United States’ international trade obligations, “discriminating unjustly against Mexico’s sustainable tuna fishery, without any scientific basis.”

The requirement also unjustly favored other tuna exporters who are not required to label their products with information regarding their fisheries’ effects on dolphins, the secretariat said.

Source: Reuters (en), Terra (sp)

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  • Sharon

    Bad day for the dolphins and all other sea creatures caught in bycatch.

  • Green Tostay

    Don’t worry this is not over ,adios!

  • Kimberly Watts

    Until American starts boycotting Mexico, the people of Mexico will not care and take back their country from these people who continually do the country damage. For a fact, only the corrupt politicians will benefit from this ruling. We, the American taxpayers, are not paying one peso (much less twenty years worth of pesos) to corrupted politicians who will put this money in their pockets. This is not about the Mexican tuna industry. This is about corrupt politicians trying to make some American dollars. We, the American people, have the greatest responsibility to make them stop their behavior. The day my son was kidnapped and killed in Manzanillo, Mexico and its corrupt police and politicians made it clear they could do what they wanted when they wanted. I find that the only justice my son will see if at the hands of America. Boycotting them and stopping their economic worth is the only thing the Mexican people understand. Every dollar spent in Mexico or buying Mexican products continues this corrupt behavior.

    • AM

      Mexico uses the structures in place to LEGALLY advocate for their interests and now you claim that Mexico is the corrupt agent in this dispute. While America continues to preserve its winning strategy in the Middle East (yeah, right!), Latin American countries, in the 21st century, are beginning to take their destiny into their own hands – as noted by Noam Chomsky. Its about time Latin America starting acting on its own accord. Poor little America, now it has to get used to the idea that it is no longer the only big kid on the block. Its very amusing to see American reaction to this shift. Yeah, and go ahead and boycott Mexico. I would really like for that to happen that way Americans can see how important Mexico is to the US. Mexico already buys more US made products than any other nation except Canada. More than China or the rest of Latin America combined. Mexico and the US also work together to build products. What you are advocating would be devastating to the US economy. It would cost the US millions of jobs. Americans claim to be the most free and democratic country, yet they can’t even inform themselves of these simple facts. I have a question, do you just ignore the facts or are you ignorant, I don’t mean stupid I mean lacking information as to a particular subject? Really? All I have to say is, in the 21st century ignorance is not a defense, especially in the US where access to information is unrestricted and readily available, right?