Fishing Rules, Finally

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The Vaquita is a small porpoise struggling to survive off the coast of Mexico.  The best estimates are about 60 remain.  Their demise, getting scooped up in the fishing nets of shrimpers and other commercial fisherman.  There may finally be some help on the way.

When you look at a can of tuna, there’s a little emblem proclaiming that it’s “Dolphin Safe.”  What this really means is the fish harvesting methods used don’t hurt or kill marine mammals.  And yup, it’s law.  The MMPA, or the Marine Mammal Protection Act, was established in the 70’s, stemming from dangerous reductions in our dolphin populations.  In fact, dolphins were on the short list for extinction without it.

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In the U.S, we import nearly 90% of our seafood.  While domestic fisheries are required to abide by the MMPA, it doesn’t really apply to foreign commercial fishing.  The implementation of MMPA standards across the board for all imported fish, levels the playing field for the North American fishing industry.  More importantly, it drastically reduces the wasteful slaughter of our beloved marine animals.

The real hiccup is how to get foreign fisheries to abide by the MMPA.  Free trade agreements do not allow us to single out particular imports based on U.S. laws.  The answer lies in labeling, enforcement, and consumer choice.  If we pick harvest safe labeling on our seafood. our pocketbooks can foster responsible change.  On the enforcement side, companies that claim safe harvesting methods, are required to allow NOAA biologists on ships to monitor their catch techniques.

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What can we do?  Only buy fish from certified, safe catch producers.  Our whales, dolphins, sea otters, manatees, seals, and even polar bears will thank you.  After all, when we’re on the water, we do love their company.

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