Dolphin Protection

Dedicated to protecting marine mammals following the most rigorous global standards and guidelines of the Agreement on International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP)

The members of the Alliance are dedicated to the protection of the entire ecosystem – including dolphins and other marine mammals. Our members proudly follow all of the very rigorous requirements and standards of the International Dolphin Conservation Program (IDCP). The IDCP was established by the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP) which is a legally binding agreement with 21 signatory countries, including the United States, European Union, and Mexico.

Goal of ZERO Dolphin Mortality in the Fishery

The first objective of the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP) is to reduce incidental dolphin mortalities in the purse-seine fishery in the eastern Pacific Ocean to levels approaching zero. This Agreement and its predecessor, the 1992 La Jolla Agreement, have been spectacularly successful in meeting this objective, as shown by the reduction in mortality of dolphins incidental to fishing. (See statistics below.)

Program Called “Unqualified Success” by United Nations, Greenpeace 

The Agreement on International Dolphin Conservation Program was recognized by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization FAO as an “unqualified success”, and lauded by WWF-UK and Greenpeace.  FAO awarded it the Margarita Lizárraga award in recognition of its “comprehensive, sustainable and catalytic initiatives” in support of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.  You can read that press release here.

Some of the characteristics of the program:

  • 100% observation by independent observers on every vessel, every expedition to observe practice with dolphins
  • observers report to the regional fisheries management body (InterAmerican Tropical Tuna Commission which has more than 21 signatory nations supporting it
  • nations may not fish if they do not meet requirements to protect dolphins

The AIDCP is the only program that is independently verified and has consequences for noncompliance that are managed by independent third parties. We are proud to support the AIDCP.

You can view a documentary on the success of the AIDCP – with testimonies from many scientists, including Gerry Leape of the Pew Charitable Trust – here.

Progress and Status

During 2014 95.5% of all sets made on tuna associated with dolphins were accomplished with no mortality or serious injury to the dolphins. Furthermore, the total mortality of dolphins in the entire ocean by all tuna fishing methods has been reduced from about 132,000 in 1986 to a low of 800 in 2013, and 975 in 2014. Comparatively, in other oceans, mortality of marine mammals is in excess of 50,000 animals a year, according to both the International Pole and Line Foundation and National Resources Defense Council. IPNLF’s report on the Indian Ocean can be seen here.


Current Populations

The most recent analysis of dolphin populations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (which was concluded in 2012 by IATTC scientists) indicates that dolphin stocks in the EPO are stable, healthy, and recovering. The results of this study were presented by Dr. Mark Maunder, Head of the Stock Assessment Program at the IATTC, at a recent meeting of the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation.

AIDCP Leads to Traceability

The Tuna Tracking System established under the AIDCP tracks the tuna caught in each set from the time it is captured until it is unloaded. Tuna caught in sets in which dolphins are not killed or seriously injured is defined as “dolphin-safe”.

Our members will continue to invest in technologies, trainings, and practice to reach zero mortality in our operations.


Further Reading

Francis, Robert C., Frank T. Awbrey, Clifford A. Goudey, Martin A. Hall, Dennis M. King, Harold Medina, Kenneth S. Norris, Michael K. Orbach, Roger Payne, and Ellen Pikitch.1992. Dolphins and the Tuna Industry. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.: xii, 176 pp.

Gosliner, Michael L. 1999. The tuna-dolphin controversy. In Twiss, John R., Jr., and Randall R. Reeves (editors), Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington: 120-155.

Hall, Martín A.  1998.  An ecological view of the tuna-dolphin problem: impacts and trade-offs. Rev. Fish Biol. Fish., 8: 1-34.

Joseph, James.  1994.  The tuna-dolphin controversy in the eastern Pacific Ocean: biological, economic, and political impacts. Ocean. Develop. Inter. Law, 25 (1): 1-30.

Scott, Michael.  1996.  The tuna-dolphin controversy. Whalewatcher, 30 (1): 16-30.