Disneyland Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship Restaurant Painting, 1955 by Miehana on Flickr.

This was also an early souvenir postcard at Disneyland, the caption read:

Riding gently at anchor in the heart of Fantasyland, the CHICKEN OF THE SEA TUNA PIRATE SHIP RESTAURANT is a magic must for meals and snacks, when you visit Disneyland. Here in the world’s most colorful cafeteria, designed by Walt Disney, you will enjoy both the food and fun offered by the greatest name in sea foods, CHICKEN OF THE SEA.

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Is Dolphin Safe Tuna actually what it claims to be?

If you’ve ever bought a can of tuna in the United States then you’ve seen that ‘dolphin safe‘ label that assures you no dolphins were killed or harmed in the process of catching that tuna. What if you found out that only about five percent of that canned tuna actually comes from a fishery where dolphin mortality rates are strictly regulated and the rest comes from fisheries with no such regulations?

As it turns out, that’s pretty much how it works now.

In the 1980s, tuna fishing in the ETP resulted in the death of more than 100,000 dolphins annually. In the 1990s, after this information reached the public, the U.S. government imposed an embargo on tuna imports caught with purse seine nets in the ETP and prevented the use of the “dolphin-safe” label for tuna caught this way.

This resulted in a migration of the majority of the U.S. tuna fishing fleet. Most vessels left the ETP to fish in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean where these new rules didn’t apply. (That tuna is still being sold in the U.S. as “dolphin safe” but we’ll get to that in a bit.)

The vessels that stayed in the ETP developed new gear and fishing methods and created a system that required an independent observer onboard to certify that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the process. Today, dolphin deaths are closer to about 1,000 per year which is much better, but still one of the highest levels of cetacean bycatch in the world.

Mark Robertson, President of Potomac Global, has over 20 years of experience on the dolphin-safe tuna issue and took the time to explain the current situation.

The current U.S. “dolphin-safe” policy certifies that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in ETP tuna fisheries. For all tuna caught in the ETP, an independent scientific observer onboard must certify that purse seine nets were not set on dolphins and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured, Robertson explained. The observer prepares and submits detailed radio and written reports that include all activities onboard that vessel, including information on any encircled dolphins, if the Captain performed all possible measures to release any captured dolphins without harm, and any issues or gear malfunctions. The tuna is monitored by government officials while it’s unloaded and it must be stored and processed separately from non-ETP tuna.

The problem is that none of those regulations exist outside the ETP. For most other tuna fisheries, only the ship’s Captain has to certify that no dolphins were killed or harmed, meaning there is simply no guarantee about what actually happened. This is a troubling issue for those eating canned tuna in the U.S., because more than 95% of that tuna sold in the US today comes from non-ETP fisheries, Robertson explained, and we have no guarantees about dolphin morality rates from those fisheries.

Although, “In Eastern Atlantic, NOAA’s own studies say that upwards of 30,000 dolphins a year are killed in tuna fisheries,” Robertson said, “but it’s all dolphin safe.”


If you care about dolphins and want to save their rapidly diminishing populations, avoid all tuna products! It’s a small diet change that could have a better impact on our Earth. We need this planet healthy to survive here.

  • tl;dr- Dolphin Safe tuna is not as well regulated as you may believe, and dolphins are still being entrapped and killed in their tuna catching nets. Avoid all tuna products until this label truly becomes a genuine promise that no dolphins are harmed!