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'Sea Creatures'

October 03, 1988

The Times editorial "Saving the Sea Creatures" (Sept. 17) is right on target; our legislators and Administration need to take seriously the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act's goal mandating porpoise mortality rates at "insignificant levels approaching zero." Although the U.S. tuna industry has led the way in reducing porpoise mortality through innovative technology and procedures, the kill rate per vessel has actually tripled in the last seven years. According to observer reports, U.S. tuna fishermen are killing at least 10,000 to 20,000 dolphins annually, despite the fact that two-thirds of the fleet has reflagged to foreign nations.

Most of the environmental community is advocating a four-year phase down of kills to a meaningful near-zero rate. Additionally, several whale protection organizations are parties to a lawsuit against the Commerce Department requiring it to begin enforcing the MMPA.

To protect our U.S. fleet's market, and discourage continued reflagging, the burden must be placed on the U.S. tuna canners and their parent companies to limit tuna purchases to fish caught in a manner consistent with U.S. standards for porpoise protection.

About 90% of the world tuna catch is achieved without setting nets on dolphin.

Finally, why not require tuna canners to label cans to indicate whether or not their product was caught at the expense of porpoises? Concerned consumers deserve the opportunity to purchase food that is obtained in a manner consistent with their ethical standards.

MARTIN BYHOWER

Heal the Bay

Santa Monica

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