SAN DIEGO -- In a blow to conservationists, the World Trade Organization has ruled that dolphin-safe tuna labels are too trade-restrictive.
For the last two decades, Mexico has claimed that its fishing standards are on par with those in the United States. The labels, said Mexican officials, discriminate against Mexican tuna imports and are not the best way to let consumers know whether any dolphins were harmed in tuna fishing.
A final ruling is expected to affect dolphin populations and tuna fisheries along the Baja California coast.
"The Mexican government, rather than work to actually improve its tuna industries so that it met U.S. standards has spent all their time in court fighting the original dolphin-safe label ruling," said Serge Dedina, executive director of WildCoast, a San Diego-based conservation group. "So now they have kind of won, but they have really lost, because their tuna industry is in absolute disarray."
Mexico's tuna industry claims the dolphin-safe labeling has resulted in one-third of its fleet shutting down. The U.S. has had a dolphin-protection law since 1990, and a final ruling by the WTO is unlikely to change it.