Washington, D.C.
May 16, 2012



The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body ruled in favor of Mexico and of the environment by finding that the dolphin-safe label contravenes the United States’ WTO obligations.  The ruling recognizes efforts undertaken by Mexico and Mexican fisheries to promote dolphin and marine ecosystem sustainability.


Today, the WTO issued its final decision in favor of Mexico in the dispute over the restrictive effects of the "dolphin-safe" label on exports of Mexican tuna to the United States market.


The Government of Mexico applauds this decision which represents a significant step toward resolving a 20-plus year bilateral dispute and confirms that the fishing methods used by the Mexican fleet responsibly meet the highest international standards for the protection of the dolphin population and other species of great importance to the marine ecosystem such as turtles, sharks, swordfish, and marlin.


Mexico’s tuna fishing method is regulated by the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP). This international agreement, to which the United States is signatory, is recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for being the most environmentally sustainable one. Mexican tuna fishing boats include an independent observer onboard 100 percent of the fishing trips to certify that no dolphins were killed or injured. This method also avoids depleting tuna resources as it only catches mature tuna and not juvenile tuna, which does occur under fishing methods used by other countries, putting tuna resources and the supply of tuna in jeopardy as already witnessed in other seas.


The Appellate Body reversed the decision of the panel regarding the discriminatory nature of the “dolphin–safe” label. It found that Mexican tuna is indeed subject to a less favorable treatment than that originating in other countries, and that there is no evidence that would justify a regulatory distinction between tuna caught in the Eastern Pacific Ocean with methods that protect dolphins and tuna caught in other oceans without such methods.


This ruling concludes in favour of Mexico by upholding that the “dolphin-safe” label is contrary to WTO rules and requests the United States to bring this measure into compliance with its WTO obligations.


In accordance with WTO rules, the adoption of this report will take place within 30 days. Upon adoption, the United States will have a reasonable period of time to comply with the Appellate Body’s recommendations.


The Government of Mexico reiterates its commitment to continue working constructively with the United States Government in order to achieve fair access for exports of Mexican tuna to the United States market and strengthen the protection of dolphins and other marine species affected by other fishing methods used by other countries.