Dolphin-Safe

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.

Tuna Tracking and Verification Program

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.

 
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Regulatory History

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

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
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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.

Additional Resources

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Resources for Importers

Visit our Dolphin-Safe Certification and NOAA Form 370 pages for information on importing frozen and/or processed tuna and tuna products.

Additional Resources

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Background Resources 

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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

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Frequent Questions

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Contact Us

Please contact us with questions about the Tuna Tracking and Verification Program or Dolphin-Safe labeling. 

Dolphin-safe mark.

Learn more about the official mark.

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