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Earth Island Inst. v. Hogarth

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20093
Nos. No. 04-17018, (9th Cir., 04/27/2007, 07/12/2003)

The Ninth Circuit held that yellowfin tuna caught by encircling dolphins with purse-seine nets may not be labeled "dolphin-safe." Environmental groups challenged the Secretary of Commerce's finding that tuna caught with purse-seine nets does not have an adverse impact on dolphin populations. But the agency's decision was arbitrary and capricious because it did not conduct the statutorily mandated studies for scientific population inferences. Nor was the finding supported by the best available scientific evidence. Further, the agency's finding was somewhat influenced by political rather than scientific concerns. The court, therefore, vacated the Secretary's final finding of no adverse impact. Without such a finding, the agency is without congressional authority to change the qualifications for labeling such tuna as dolphin-safe. Consequently, there will be no change in tuna labeling standards absent the new congressional directive. The label of dolphin-safe will continue to signify that the tuna was not harvested with purse-seine nets and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured when the tuna were caught.