Scientists are reporting the first indication that two species of dolphin in the Eastern Pacific Ocean are recovering after being nearly wiped out by tuna fishermen.
For 30 years until the early 1990s, boats tracking tuna used purse-sein nets that captured dolphins as well as tuna. Spotted and eastern spinner dolphins saw their populations drop 80% and 70% respectively. Consumer campaigns that encouraged the purchase of dolphin-safe tuna, and new government restrictions, seem to be helping, though.
Scientists with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's National Fishery Service report that more of both dolphins are being observed.
"These estimates are encouraging because they are consistent with what we would expect to see if these stocks are recovering, now that reported fishery mortality has been dramatically reduced," said Dr. Lisa Ballance, director of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center protected resources division. "However, we have to be careful not to jump to final conclusions. We need to resolve the uncertainties around these estimates before we can definitively say these stocks are recovering."
Only time and continued research will tell whether these charismatic creatures are on the road to recovery. But this is the first good news about these dolphins in decades.
The Earth Island Institute, which certified dolphin-safe tuna, recommends these three U.S. brands of tuna: StarKist (Del Monte), Chicken of the Sea (ThaiUnion Int.) and BumbleBee.
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