Frequent Questions – Dolphin-Safe Requirements for the American Samoa Longline Fishery

Dolphin-safe tuna regulations are applicable to all fisheries, including longline fisheries in American Samoa. These questions were prepared jointly by the NOAA Fisheries Tuna Tracking and Verification Program, the NOAA Fisheries American Samoa Longline Observer Program, and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

What are the dolphin-safe regulations for American Samoa longline vessels?

Dolphin-safe tuna regulations are found at 50 CFR part 216 Subpart H. The regulations were first revised in 2013 (78 FR 40997) and again in 2016 (81 FR 15444) to include requirements applicable to all fisheries, including longline fisheries in American Samoa. Specific regulations that pertain to the separation of dolphin-safe tuna from non-dolphin-safe tuna for the American Samoa longline fishery can be found at 50 CFR 216.91(a) and (a)(4) and at 50 CFR 216.93(c)(3)(i) and (ii).

What species are considered dolphins for the purpose of dolphin-safe requirements?

Species in the family Delphinidae are considered dolphins. This family includes species such as bottlenose dolphins and rough-toothed dolphins, as well as toothed whales such as false killer whales, pilot whales, and killer whales. It does not include sperm whales, baleen whales, or beaked whales. The American Samoa longline fishery has had observed incidental interactions with the false killer whale, short-finned pilot whale, rough- toothed dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, and Cuvier’s beaked whale since the observer program started in 2006.

What are the requirements for tuna from American Samoa longline vessels to be labeled dolphin-safe?

When delivering dolphin-safe tuna to U.S. canneries, American Samoa longline vessels must do the following¹:

  • For fishing trips that began before May 21, 2016, provide a signed captain’s statement to the cannery certifying that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets or other gear deployments in which the tuna were caught.
  • For fishing trips that began on or after May 21, 2016, provide a signed captain’s statement to the cannery certifying that:
    • No purse seine net or other fishing gear was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the fishing trip and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets or other gear deployments in which the tuna were caught.
    • The vessel captain has completed the NOAA Fisheries Tuna Tracking and Verification Program’s dolphin-safe captain’s training course
  • If a dolphin was killed or seriously injured after becoming incidentally hooked or entangled in gear, tuna from the set(s) in which the interaction occurred (“non-dolphin-safe” tuna) must be stored physically separate from the rest of the tuna (“dolphin-safe” tuna”) from the time of capture through unloading.

¹ These requirements also apply to U.S. longline vessels delivering tuna to foreign canneries or processors where the tuna will be labeled dolphin-safe for the U.S. market.
² Captains may complete this training course by reading the training materials online. No course registration or certificate of completion will be issued. By signing the captain’s statement for trips that began on or after May 21, 2016, the captain certifies completion of the training course.

What are dolphin-safe provisions for catch other than tuna?

Dolphin-safe provisions only apply to the true tuna species that belong to the genus Thunnus (includes albacore, yellowfin, and bigeye tunas) and to skipjack tuna (Katsuwanus pelamis).

What do you do with tuna catch if a dolphin Is killed or seriously injured during the set?

The tuna from sets where a dolphin was killed or seriously injured (i.e., non-dolphin-safe tuna) must be kept physically separate from dolphin-safe tuna caught in other sets that will be labeled dolphin-safe. The captain is responsible for enacting procedures during each set to ensure dolphin-safe tuna is kept physically separate from non-dolphin-safe tuna and for designating where non-dolphin-safe tuna is to be stored aboard the vessel. If the tuna from a set where a dolphin was killed or seriously injured is not kept physically separate from the rest of the dolphin-safe tuna catch from that trip, the entire tuna catch from that trip is considered non-dolphin-safe.

How do you separate dolphin-safe catch from non-dolphin-safe catch?

Tuna caught during a set where a dolphin was killed or seriously injured must be physically separated through unloading at the cannery. Regulations specify that netting, other materials, or separate storage areas can be used. Other materials can include trash bags, tarp, netting, or fabric that is readily available and can create a physical separation within the storage area. It should be noted that marking the tuna, such as by tying line to the tail or removing the tail, are not sufficient to meet the requirement to keep non-dolphin-safe tuna physically separate from dolphin-safe tuna.

Example: If the vessel has only one storage area, a section of netting or a tarp can be laid over previously caught dolphin-safe tuna. All non-dolphin-safe tuna from a particular set can then be stored on top of the net or tarp. At the end of the set, an additional section of netting or a tarp is laid on top of the non-dolphin-safe tuna. By tagging both sections of netting or tarps, the tuna has been identified as non-dolphin-safe so that future catches of dolphin-safe tuna can continue to be stored in the same vessel storage area.

How do you make “serious injury” determinations?

“Serious injury” refers to any injury likely to cause mortality. The NOAA Fisheries American Samoa Longline Observer Program representative in Pago Pago will make serious injury determinations after the on-board observer returns to port. During the trip, the on-board observer will collect written or photographic documentation of any marine mammal interaction. After the on-board observer returns, the Observer Program will immediately review the observer’s data and determine if there was a dolphin mortality or serious injury during the trip. The observer will deliver a statement to the vessel prior to offload, but the captain is still responsible for following all applicable dolphin-safe requirements.

Can I discard tuna from sets where a dolphin was killed or seriously injured?

No regulations prohibit discarding tuna caught west of 150° west longitude.

What are the specific regulations pertaining to the separation of dolphin-safe tuna from non-dolphin-safe tuna for the American Samoa longline fishery?

§216.91 Dolphin-safe labeling standards.

50 CFR 216.91(a)(3)(iii) and (a)(4):

(a) It is a violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45) for any producer, importer, exporter, distributor, or seller of any tuna products that are exported from or offered for sale in the United States to include on the label of those products the term “dolphin-safe” or any other term or symbol that claims or suggests that the tuna contained in the products were harvested using a method of fishing that is not harmful to dolphins if the products contain tuna harvested:

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(3) Other fisheries. By a vessel in a fishery other than one described in paragraph (a)(1) or (2) of this section unless such product is accompanied as described in § 216.93(d), (e), or (f), as appropriate, by:

  (iii) For tuna caught by a vessel on a fishing trip that began on or after May 21, 2016, a written statement executed by the Captain of the vessel certifying that:

  1. No purse seine net or other fishing gear was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the fishing trip in which the tuna were caught, and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets or other gear deployments in which the tuna were caught; and
  2. The Captain of the vessel has completed the NMFS Tuna Tracking and Verification Program dolphin-safe captain’s training course. The NMFS Tuna Tracking and Verification Program dolphin-safe captain’s training course is available on the Web site of the NMFS Tuna Tracking and Verification Program at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/dolphin-safe.

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(4) Other fisheries—segregation. In a fishery other than one described in paragraph (a)(1) or (2) of this section on a fishing trip that began on or after July 13, 2013 unless the tuna caught in sets or gear deployments designated as dolphin-safe was stored physically separate from tuna caught in a non-dolphin-safe set or other gear deployment by the use of netting, other material, or separate storage areas from the time of capture through unloading. If tuna caught in a set or other gear deployment where a dolphin was killed or seriously injured is not stored physically separate from dolphin-safe tuna as stated in § 216.93(c)(2)(i) or (c)(3)(i), as applicable, all tuna inside the storage well or other storage location shall be considered non-dolphin-safe.

§216.93 Tracking and verification program.
For non-purse seine fisheries

50 CFR 216.93(c)(3)(i) and (ii):

(i) Tuna caught in sets or other gear deployments designated as dolphin-safe must be stored separately from tuna caught in non-dolphin-safe sets or other gear deployments from the time of capture through unloading. Dolphin-safe tuna must be kept physically separate from non-dolphin-safe tuna by using netting, other material, or separate storage areas. The captain or, where applicable, a qualified and authorized observer under §216.91, must designate the storage areas for dolphin-safe and non-dolphin-safe tuna.

(ii) Tuna offloaded to trucks, storage facilities, or carrier vessels must be loaded or stored in such a way as to maintain and safeguard the identification of the dolphin-safe or non-dolphin-safe designation of the tuna as it left the fishing vessel.