April 14, 2003, VANCOUVER - The images of helpless dolphins entangled in tuna nets, gasping for breath and thrashing about in their final death throes have been burned into the memories of many Canadians. However, if government and industry have their way, even more dolphins will be killed in tuna nets according to The Humane Society of Canada.


In a letter to major food suppliers and retailers, The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) has them to commit to dolphin safe tuna, according to Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. "Although many people thought that this issue had already been dealt with, various trade bodies and countries, are attempting to overturn the long standing measures in place to protect dolphins and other marine life. Only by helping consumers make an informed choice, can be save thousands of these magnificent creatures from a slow lingering death.


The "dolphin safe" label featured on some cans of tuna is in danger of meaning very little. For more than a decade this label meant that the tuna was caught in nets that did not surround and hurt dolphins. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

A new rule by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration means that the "dolphin safe" label can now apply to tuna caught in encircling nets. This means that the US market will now be open to countries that use cruel fishing practices. The Humane Society of Canada is deeply concerned that tuna caught by techniques that kill, injure and harass thousands of dolphins will find its way into Canadian food stores.

"The use of encircling nets results in vessels that chase dolphins and encircle them to catch the tuna who swim with the dolphins. Helpless dolphins, gasping for breath and thrashing about in their final death throes, die in these barbaric and cruel nets. Many others are injured. Mothers are separated from their babies. The suffering is unimaginable," says HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan who has worked in Canada and around the world helping dolphins.

Prior to this latest rule, which was reportedly brought in by the Bush administration to further free trade, requirements needed to meet the "dolphin safe" label were effective resulting in thousands of dolphins being spared horrific deaths each year. Now, the use of encircling nets will result in thousands of dolphins being killed every year; many others will suffer physical and psychological injuries. The Humane Society of Canada is asking Canadian food retailers and suppliers to ensure that "dolphin unsafe tuna" is not sold in Canada.

Since 1986 alone, the dolphin safe standards have saved the lives of tens of thousands of dolphins and other marine life.

O’Sullivan also has a warning for the federal government. Secret documents obtained by The Humane Society of Canada as far back as 1994 found that without any public consultation, the Government of Canada joined other nations at the World Trade Organization in fighting for the right for fishermen to drown dolphins in tuna nets.

"The biggest mistake Canadians could make is to trust that politicians, civil servants and industry will protect dolphins -- even though repeated government surveys have shown that 9 out of 10 Canadians support the protection and not the killing of wildlife. To best way to make dolphins safe is by choosing wisely when we spend our hard earned dollars," said O’Sullivan.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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