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Response to RT Article About Walmart Kills Dolphins Campaign

| Mark J. Palmer
Topics: Dolphin Safe Tuna, Tuna Industry

On April 5, just hours after the launch of our campaign to stop Walmart from selling dolphin-deadly tuna, an article was posted by RT that details the campaign and the issues surrounding dolphin deaths within tuna fishing. However, the article contains some misleading information from the Mexican government and tuna industry. The following is our response to the article.


Dear Editor:

Thank you for posting an article about our campaign to urge Walmart to stop selling tuna caught by chasing, harassing and killing dolphins from Mexican tuna fleets in Walmart stores in Costa Rica:

“¿Guerra comercial?: Una ONG de EE.UU. ataca a Walmart por vender atún mexicano que 'matá' a delfines” 

However, your article repeats propaganda from the Mexican government and Mexican tuna industry that is very misleading.

The World Trade Organization is not an environmental organization, and so their claim that the US Dolphin Safe laws “discriminate” against Mexico is based solely on trade considerations, not the welfare of dolphins.  The WTO has also ruled that the US Dolphin Safe laws are important to protect dolphins.  In fact, our organization EII led the effort in the United States in 1990 to stop the US fleet from doing what the Mexican tuna fleet is doing now – chasing, netting and killing dolphins.  The US fleet is now entirely Dolphin Safe.

As noted in our press release, the tuna fleets that chase and net dolphins (Mexico owns half of that tuna fleet) killed a minimum of 975 dolphins in 2014, based on international observers’ reports.  We know many more dolphins die, probably in the thousands, who are not observed, according to scientific research.

Furthermore, your article questions why our organization EII is “satisfied” with so-called bycatch of other species by US tunaboats.  EII has in fact been in the lead in reducing such bycatch.  For example, we were the first organization, in 1995, to require fishermen to release sea turtles and sharks alive from tuna nets.  Only much later did international tuna treaty organizations, like the Comisión Interamericana del Atún Tropical, adopt similar regulations.  EII further reduces bycatch by banning shark finning on tuna vessels that are part of our Dolphin Safe program.

We believe the Mexican government and tuna industry deliberately exaggerate the impact US tuna vessels have on non-target species and ignore steps EII and other groups have taken to reduce bycatch in order to justify the killing of dolphins.  

Don’t be misled!  Don’t buy Mexican tuna that is stained by the blood of dolphins, like Suli Brand in Walmart stores in Costa Rica.  

There are a number of brands of tuna canned in Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, featured on our EII website, that fish for tuna in a Dolphin Safe manner and provide jobs to Costa Rica.  Why buy cheap tuna from Mexico that undersells Costa Rican brands and harms dolphins?

Here is an article and a Facebook page where your readers can learn more information:


Thank you again for your coverage of this important issue for your readers.

    David Phillips, Director, International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute

    Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director, International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute


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Photo credit: NOAA