Tuna Dolphin Safe Tuna? Is it a Success? Or Is Something Fishy Here?

Yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares

You like to think you’re doing the world a favor, and doing your part by making sure that can of tuna you pick up at the supermarket is “Dolphin Safe”, however, have you ever stopped to think what it might be doing to other sea life?

To properly understand the conundrum, we first need to look at the underlying history of “Dolphin
Safe” tuna.

The story goes something like this.. Way back when, a bunch of environmental activists got together and exposed those nasty tuna fisherman for the vermins they were. They were reeling in record amounts of tuna sure. But how did they find the tuna? Truth of the matter is, there are really only two ways to go about looking to tuna in the sea; rigorously searching using sonar, boats, and planes, or following around the dolphins.

No one really knows why, but dolphins tend to be associated with huge schools of tuna. So whenever a group of these tuna fishermen went out, they looked for pockets of dolphins and cast their lines.. It worked. They brought in record amounts of tuna, but they were also harming the dolphins.

We got all worked up about the poor dolphins, so the fishermen had to get creative. They now use floating objects on the ocean surface to attract the tuna, and then circle around them with a bunch of boats and reel in everything in the circle using seine nets.

Well surprise surprise… The dolphins are now safe, however any number of other species are now being caught as by-catch in bigger numbers than ever! You see, it seems that most sea faring creatures are drawn to these interesting floating things in the ocean, as they’ve never seen them before.. They go in to investigate, and BAM! They are stuck too!

So, did we REALLY do a favor by introducing “Dolphin-Safe” tuna? The dolphin isn’t endangered after all, but some of the other sea creatures being reeled in now are.. So we saved one species, but put another 100 or more at risk of extinction…

You can read a more extensive examination of the problem by visiting Southern Fried Science.