The Tuna Tracking and Verification Program, established under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act, is how NOAA Fisheries monitors compliance with dolphin-safe tuna labeling.
A dolphin-safe label is intended to show compliance with U.S. laws and regulations of tuna fishing operations. The Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (16 U.S.C. §1385; PDF 5 pages) describes the conditions in which tuna product may be labeled dolphin-safe in the United States. NOAA has implemented the Act by regulation, which among other things includes more specific documentary requirements; the regulations are codified at part 216, subpart H, of Title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Due to the unique association between tuna and dolphins found only in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and because of the purse seine fishery that area supports, protecting dolphin stocks became a priority for the United States. As a result, the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (PDF, 5 pages) was passed in 1990. One of its mandates was the establishment of a national tuna tracking program.
In 1999, the United States signed on as a Party to the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (PDF, 23 pages). Among other things, the Agreement mandates the establishment of an international tracking program for tuna caught in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
The International Dolphin Conservation Program Act (PDF, 19 pages) amended the Marine Mammal Protection Act to make the objectives and requirements of the Agreement legally effective in the United States.
Related Federal Register Publications
- Taking and Importing of Marine Mammals (effectiveness of requirement for observer statements to accompany certain tuna products; effective January 23, 2017)
- Taking and Importing of Marine Mammals and Dolphin-Safe Tuna Products (determination of regular and significant mortality and serious injury of dolphins in Indian Ocean gillnet fisheries; effective November 28, 2016)
- Final Rule: Trade Monitoring Procedures for Fishery Products; International Trade in Seafood; Permit Requirements for Importers and Exporters (effective September 20, 2016)
- Enhanced Document Requirements and Captain Training Requirements to Support Use of the Dolphin Safe Label on Tuna Products (Dolphin-Safe labeling requirements; effective March 22, 2016)
- Determination That Italy Is Not a Large-Scale High Seas Driftnet Nation (effective June 4, 2015)
- Determination of Observer Programs as Qualified and Authorized by the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries (adoption of observer criteria; decision on qualified and authorized programs; effective August 13, 2014)
Related Code of Federal Regulations
- 50 CFR 216.24(f): Taking and related acts incidental to commercial fishing operations by tuna purse seine vessels in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean
- 50 CFR 216 Subpart H: Dolphin Safe Tuna Labeling
Resources for Captains
In order for tuna to qualify as “dolphin-safe” in the United States, U.S. regulations require a written statement from the captain of the vessel, in most fisheries worldwide, certifying that 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. For trips beginning on or after May 21, 2016, captains must also certify completion of the Dolphin-Safe Captain's Training Course. Learn about the Dolphin-Safe Captain's Training Course.
- Captain Statement Templates
- Dolphin-Safe Captain’s Training Course (English)
- 点击此处通过简体中文获取信息 (Mandarin Chinese)
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- Additional Tuna Tracking and Verification Program Information
Resources for Importers
- Information on NOAA Form 370 - Fisheries Certificate of Origin
- NOAA Form 370 (PDF, 2 pages) - version updated January 26, 2018, and expiring July 31, 2019
- Compliance Guide for Importing Tuna
- Important Resources and Links for Tuna Importers/Exporters Related to NOAA Fisheries Implementation of the International Trade Data System - September 20, 2016
- International Fisheries Trade Permit Application (*NOTE: new users must register an account to apply)
- Tuna Tracking and Verification Program
- Verification Components
- Current Harmonized Tariff Schedule
- International Trade Permit
- Tuna/Dolphin Embargo Status Update
- Annual Report on U.S. Tuna Cannery Receipts
- Dolphin Photo Gallery
- Dolphin Smart
- The Origins of California’s High-Seas Tuna Fleet
- Tuna-Dolphin Issue (SWFSC)
Global Tuna Fishery
Found in temperate waters throughout the world’s oceans, tuna is a much-sought-after global commodity. In the United States alone, the supply of canned tuna products was about 671 million pounds in 2016, with an estimated wholesale value of $1.2 billion. Tuna often migrate long distances, so international cooperation is needed to ensure sustainable management. There are several international management and research organizations and programs for the long-term conservation of tuna stocks and other highly migratory species.
Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)
Established by international convention in 1950, the IATTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other species harvested in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The IATTC maintains a regional vessel register that lists all vessels authorized, by the Members, to fish in the Convention Area.
Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP)
The AIDCP has been ratified or acceded by 13 states, including the United States, and is applied provisionally by another two. Among the objectives of the AIDCP are to reduce dolphin mortalities and ensure the long-term sustainability of the tuna stocks within the Agreement Area. Through the AIDCP, the International Tuna Tracking System (PDF, 5 pages) and the International Dolphin-Safe Certification System (PDF, 3 pages) have been established.
Other International Organizations
- Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna
- Indian Ocean Tuna Commission
- International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
- International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean
- Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency
- Secretariat of the Pacific Community (Oceanic Fisheries Programme)
- Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
- Frequent Questions About the Dolphin-Safe Program
- Frequent Questions on the Applicability of Dolphin-Safe Requirements to Tuna Caught in the American Samoa Longline Fishery
Please contact us with questions about the Tuna Tracking and Verification Program or Dolphin-Safe labeling.
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