Why International Trade is not Dolphin Safe

Seth Victor

You may have your own opinions about the World Trade Organization (WTO), whether positive or negative. Regardless, the WTO wields influence over imports and exports worldwide. As we have discussed at length on this blawg, animals are commodities, and thus the policies of the WTO are important when considering animal rights.Dolphins in Net

Over the last several months the WTO has taken issue with dolphin-safe tuna. To summarize what is a long and involved debate, since 1990 the United States has provided labels specifying whether dolphins were killed (though “harmed” isn’t covered) through the harvesting of tuna to be sold in the U.S. market under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (originally the labels really meant that purse seine nets, the type that often harm dolphins, weren’t used). Mexico, via a complaint to the WTO, claimed that these dolphin safety measures unfairly impeded Mexico’s tuna trade. The WTO agreed, and ruled that the dolphin-safe labels are “unnecessarily restrictive on trade.”  This ruling comes out of one of the core principles of the WTO’s policy of non-discrimination. Under the doctrine of “the most favoured nation” all WTO countries must extend to each other the same trade advantages as the most prefered trading nation would receive. National equality also states that foreign traders must be treated the same way as domestic traders. When you consider the long history of violence and discrimination associated with international trade, including the United States’s own origins, this is sound policy. Yet as always, the devil is in the application.

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Groovebar Job Opening

David Cassuto

So, if you were looking for a pretty darn cool job, this one might be it.

Director of International Conservation

Location: Washington, D.C.
Supervisor: Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs

Position Description

This management position requires substantial knowledge of international wildlife conservation policy and practice, including marine wildlife conservation; experience in the negotiation and implementation of international agreements; and the ability to direct, manage, and coordinate diverse staff working in the U.S. and internationally.  The position serves as Defenders’ institutional lead on international conservation policy and programs.  The incumbent works with the Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs, International Conservation program staff and other staff members to identify policy goals and set program priorities relating to the conservation of wildlife outside of the United States, and the conservation of marine wildlife in the U.S. and globally.  The incumbent bears primary responsibility for the strategic development of Defenders’ international conservation work and provides programmatic direction and administrative oversight for Defenders’ International Conservation program.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

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Are Seahorses Becoming Extinct?

Elisa D’Ortenzio

Today, there are so many threats to the various ecosystems and the animals that live in them that it has become hard to keep track of them all.  One animal that seems to receive little attention is the seahorse, even as many believe the seahorse to be a flagship of endangered marine habitats of the world and indicators of the heath of coral reefs where they live.  The effect of their loss would cause an imbalance in the ecosystem creating lasting detrimental consequences as they are predators of bottom-dwelling organisms.

Seahorses are fish that have fascinated people due to their horse-shaped heads, kangaroo-like pouches, and monkey-like tails.  Still fascinating is that the male seahorses give birth to the offspring.  Every year about 20 million seahorses are harvested live from the world’s oceans.  The future of many species of seahorse are now in question as threats such as pollution, habitat loss and accidental fishing increasingly reduce their populations.  The biggest threat these fish face though, come from the unsustainable harvesting of seahorses for the aquarium trade, curio trade (dried and sold as souvenirs) and for use in traditional medicines.  Millions of seahorses, corals and other marine animals are collected alive and dried as souvenirs and utilized as curios with a high availability in beach resorts and shell shops around the world while the greatest number of harvested seahorses are imported to Asia.  Continue reading

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