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US tuna companies face class-action lawsuits over “Dolphin-Safe” claims

StarKist Tuna can with dolphin safe labeling
Source: Seafood Source

San Francisco, CA — In the midst of dealing with numerous price-fixing lawsuits, Bumble Bee Foods, Chicken of the Sea, and StarKist now face class-action complaints over the “Dolphin-Safe” claims on their tuna products.

While Lion Capital-owned Bumble Bee, Thai Union-owned Chicken of the Sea, and Downgon Industries-owned Starkist claim that their products are “Dolphin-Safe,” that is not the case, according to the racketeering and fraud complaints filed in United States District Court in San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The “Dolphin-Safe” label signifies that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured as a result of the catching of the tuna contained in their products. But the suppliers’ tuna fishing practices “kill or harm substantial numbers of dolphins each year,” the lawsuit against StarKist stated. 

“And, because defendant does not adequately trace or otherwise identify the tuna that is not ‘Dolphin-Safe’ and physically segregate and store it separately from any tuna that may be ‘Dolphin-Safe,’ defendant may not label any of its products as ‘Dolphin-Safe,’” the StarKist complaint said.

While StarKist “does not comment on pending legal matters”, Michelle Faist, senior manager of corporate affairs for StarKist Co., told SeafoodSource, the supplier “will not purchase any tuna caught in association with dolphins.”

“StarKist Co. is committed to protecting the dolphins and was the first company to adopt a dolphin-safe policy in April 1990,” Faist said.

The policy states that: “StarKist will not purchase any tuna caught in association with dolphins. StarKist continues its practice of refusing to purchase tuna caught with gill or drift nets, which are known to be dangerous to many forms of marine life. StarKist condemns the use of these indiscriminate fishing methods that trap dolphins, whales, and other marine life along with the intended catch of fish.”

StarKist “remains committed to this policy and require certification that all tuna we purchase is dolphin-safe,” Faist said. “Our dolphin-safe policy includes StarKist tuna, as well as all of our branded and private label products. StarKist tuna is labeled with a special ‘Dolphin-Safe’ logo.”

The complaints against Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea are similarly-worded.

Read more at Seafood Source