What about 25,824 small tuna, 382 mahi-mahi, 188 wahoo, 82 yellowtail and other large fish, 27 sharks and rays, 1 billfish, 1,193 triggerfish and other small fish and 0.06 endangered sea turtles? That's the bycatch cost associated with saving a single dolphin by moving to 'dolphin safe' tuna fishing practices. Dolphin safe tuna, it turns out, is an ecological disaster. It seems the only species it's better for is dolphins. The reason is the method used to find the tuna schools.
[A]fter a large group of tuna is located, a miles-across purse seine net is closed around them via a group of small boats associated with a large factory ship. It’s an effective way to catch large amounts of fish for not a lot of money.Unfortunately the problem with #2 is that floating objects attract so much more than just tuna, resulting in the bycatch mentioned above. Dolphin-associated tuna schools, on the other hand, are primarily mature tuna.
This technique is pretty standard- the main variation lies in how the large group of tuna is located. There are basically three ways to do this.
For a long time, #3 was the most common way of catching tuna. The problem with this method was that by definition, dolphins are right there- and they get caught in the net as well.
- Get lucky and happen to stumble across a large group of tuna visible from the surface in the middle of an enormous ocean. Obviously, this isn’t terribly practical.
- Attract tuna using floating objects. Stay tuned, we’ll come back to #2.
- Follow dolphins, because dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific are often associated with large schools of tuna. Dolphins are easy to follow because, unlike tuna, they have to come up for air.
Dolphin-safe tuna is even bad for the tuna. The 'small tuna' bycatch refers to pre-reproductive fish, removing them from the breeding pool and making tuna fishery even more unsustainable.
Of course changing the 'dolphin friendly' label to 'eco unfriendly' (or 'ONLY dolphin friendly) is probably never going to happen.
What's a dolphin worth to you?