The U.S. embargo on tuna imports to the U.S.

The United States maintains its embargo on imports of yellowfin tuna from nations whose large purse seiners catch tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) unless the catching nation obtains an affirmative finding from NOAA Fisheries.

This is under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

Belonging to the U.S. federal government, NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat.

The U.S. government maintains that the United States has worked in a variety of ways to address the impacts that OTP purse seine fishing activities have historically had on dolphin populations, as well as consumer-related impacts.

The Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), to which the United States is a Party, was established to reduce incidental dolphin mortality in the tuna purse seine fishery, with the goal of eliminating dolphin mortality through the establishment of annual limits.

As a result, data from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) show a significant reduction in total dolphin mortality in the ETP purse-seine fishery in recent decades.

The U.S. MMPA addresses the ETP purse seine tuna fishery and the importation of yellowfin tuna from nations participating in this fishery due to the historical impact of the fishery on dolphin populations.


The Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA) section of the Congressional “findings” states that “dolphins and other marine mammals are frequently killed in the course of tuna fishing operations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean and high seas driftnet fishing in other parts of the world” and “consumers would like to know if the tuna they purchase is falsely labeled as to the effect of the tuna catch on dolphins.”

The DPCIA set the standards by which tuna products can be labeled dolphin-safe in the United States and established a national tracking and verification program -NOAA Fisheries’ Tuna Tracking and Verification Program (TTVP)- to monitor the dolphin-safe status of imported and domestically produced frozen and processed tuna (Genus Thunnus and Katsuwonus pelamis).

The TTVP is the only U.S. government-recognized program that legally satisfies all applicable federal regulations for dolphin-safe tuna certification.


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