INTERNATIONAL MARINE MAMMAL PROJECT
State Department officials held two days of secret meetings in September with Mexican government officials and the Mexican tuna industry. Among those excluded: environmental groups, US tuna companies, members of Congress, and representatives of Mexico's new president-elect, Vincente Fox.
The Mexican embassy claimed that the meetings resulted in an agreement that will allow the State Department to award the "dolphin safe" tuna label to Mexican fishermen who chase, harass, injure, and net dolphins.
"Once again, the Clinton/Gore administration is working ... to mislead US consumers and harm dolphins with a phony `dolphin safe' tuna label, all to placate a handful of Mexican tuna millionaires in the dubious name of free trade," charged David Phillips, director of Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project.
The meetings, which were held on September 28 and 29 at the State Department in Washington, were hosted by Undersecretary of State Frank Loy. When word of the secret meetings leaked out, the Dolphin Safe/Fair Trade Campaign (a coalition of 85 environmental and animal welfare organizations) requested to attend the meeting as observers. These requests were ignored.
Members of the Dolphin Safe/Fair Trade Campaign include Earth Island, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the US, Friends of the Earth, and Ralph Nader's Citizens Trade Campaign.
The Mexican news service Notimex reported that the Mexican delegation included representatives of the Mexican tuna industry, who demanded that the US government ignore its own dolphin-protection laws and allow them to sell their tuna in the US with a phony "dolphin safe" label. Notimex reported that the Mexican delegation did not coordinate the meeting with staff of President-elect Fox, who took office last December.
"This is a major diplomatic blunder for the State Department -- to be undermining President-elect Fox by working with lame-duck bureaucrats of the PRI party to set US-Mexican …