Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet

Keep 'Dolphin-Safe' Strong

Sierra Club activists across the country are mobilizing in support of the International Dolphin Conservation Act, S. 1460, introduced in December by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.), and a companion bill, H.R. 2856, introduced in January by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). The bills are intended to counter congressional attempts to weaken current dolphin protections in favor of international trade agreements.

The assault on current law includes S. 1420, sponsored by Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and John Breaux (D-La.), and its companion in the House, H.R. 2823. Both are aimed at bringing strong sovereign environmental law into compliance with the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Club opposes these bills because they dilute a landmark environmental protection by redefining the dolphin-safe label to allow chasing, harassing and setting nets on dolphins by tuna fishers if no dolphin deaths are "observed."

"Breaux-Stevens abandons the goal of zero dolphin mortality, allows thousands of animals to be killed every year in perpetuity, and opens the U.S. market to dolphin-unsafe tuna," said Maxine McCloskey, chair of the Club's tuna-dolphin task force.

Under current law, "dolphin-safe" prohibits tuna boats from chasing or encircling dolphins in mile-long drift nets in order to catch the tuna that tend to school underneath. "If we eliminate the current definition of dolphin-safe," said McCloskey, "we'll encourage a fishing practice that inevitably causes dolphin deaths and would slow the recovery of depleted populations."

Within 48 hours of Boxer's bill being introduced, marine activists from the Delaware Chapter peppered Biden's office with calls to secure his cosponsorship. And in Florida, between 12-hour shifts as a hospice nurse, Cecilia Height activated the central Florida group's phone tree in support of the bill and appeared on three live radio talk shows to publicize the threats posed by international trade rules.

"The new World Trade Organization -- which administers GATT and NAFTA -- can pressure us to weaken laws that our trading partners find restrictive," said Height. "It looks like the Clinton administration is supporting Breaux-Stevens in order to cut a deal and avoid potential conflict with trade rules. But why would we scrap a law that's already an international success story and has helped reduce dolphin deaths by 95 percent?"

To take action: Call your senators and representative today. Urge them to support S. 1460 and H.R. 2856, the International Dolphin Conservation Act.

For more information: Call Maxine McCloskey at (301) 229-4967 for a free tuna-dolphin protection action packet.

Ten Ways to Send Shell a Message

The Sierra Club is boycotting Shell Oil in response to the slaying of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Nigerian activists, who became targets of the Nigerian military regime after protesting Royal Dutch Shell's destruction of their homeland.

  • 1. Educate yourself. Ask for a copy of the Sierra Club's (S)HELL IN NIGERIA factsheet. Distribute copies to other Shell patrons and in your community. For copies, call: (415) 977-5500.
  • 2. Contact Philip J. Carroll, President of Shell Oil, U.S., P.O. Box 2463, Houston, TX 77252; (800) 248-4257, Fax: (713) 241-4044, e-mail: <>. Tell him you will not buy Shell products until the company cleans up its mess in Nigeria and pays reparations to affected communities.
  • 3. If you have a Shell credit card, cut it up and send it to Philip J. Carroll.
  • 4. Ask local government officials and universities to cancel or not renew any contracts with Shell Oil. For a sample resolution, call (202) 675-6691.
  • 5. Hold a candlelight vigil or leaflet a local Shell station. Invite the media.
  • 6. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper urging others in your community not to patronize Shell.
  • 7. Deliver a letter to your local Shell station owner or manager. Tell him/her why you won't be buying Shell gas -- ask him or her to pass your message on to Shell's distributor.
  • 8. Urge your representative to support H.R. 2697; urge your senator to support S. 1419; bills to impose sanctions against Nigeria until democracy is restored. Write President Clinton, urging him to support a Nigerian oil embargo.
  • 9. Plan joint actions with other organizations supporting the Shell boycott. Call (202) 675-6691 for help in making contacts.
  • 10. Drive less. Walk, bike or take public transportation -- it's the best way to send a message to Shell and other oil companies that you're not dependent on their ill-gotten product.

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