Tuna and Dolphin-Safe Techniques

Absent from the opinion-page article ''Take the Final Step to Protect Dolphins,'' Feb. 2, is any mention of the fact that more than 70 environmental, animal-protection, and consumer groups oppose bills proposed by Sen. John Breaux (D) of Louisiana, Sen. Ted Stevens (R) of Alaska, and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R) of Maryland. These groups support opposing bills introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California, Sen. Joseph Biden (R) of Delaware, and Rep. George Miller (D) of California.

Supporters of the Stevens/Breaux and Gilchrest bills argue that the reduction in dolphin mortality since 1989 demonstrates that encirclement is an acceptable method of fishing. But they fail to mention that the two species of dolphins most commonly targeted in encirclement fishing - the Northeastern offshore spotted and Eastern spinner dolphins - are still considered severely depleted by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The reasons for the decline are unclear: Some scientists believe that stress from chasing and encirclement may be at least partly responsible.

The Boxer-Biden and Miller bills preserve the integrity of US laws by maintaining current labeling definitions and prohibiting the sale of tuna caught at dolphins' expense; but they also will open our markets to foreign tuna caught with truly dolphin-safe techniques.

Patricia Forkan Washington

Executive Vice President

Humane Society of the United States

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