Costco faces lawsuit over false ‘dolphin safe’ tuna claim

Costco faces lawsuit over false 'dolphin safe' tuna claim
School of tuna, photo: Canva

A judge on Tuesday decided the American multinational corporation Costco must face a lawsuit claiming it falsely advertises its canned tuna as “dolphin-safe” despite using fishing methods that harm and kill dolphins. 

United States District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco said the plaintiff, consumer Melinda Wright, accused the company of misrepresenting canned tuna as “dolphin-safe.” 

He rejected Costco’s plea to dismiss the case and allowed Wright to move further. Costco defence was that it made no promises about dolphin safety other than using a “dolphin-safe” logo on labels.

Orrick said reasonable consumers would conclude from Costco’s “dolphin-safe” logo and statements about seafood sourcing that its fishing practices promoted “protection of and respect for” marine life, with limited negative environmental effects. 

The lawsuit concerns “Kirkland Signature Albacore Solid White Tuna in Water,” a product marketed as “dolphin safe.” The tuna cans are sold across the US in packs of eight 7-ounce cans that cost around $15 at Costco stores. 

The lawsuit mentioned that Costco had struck a deal with supplier Bumble Bee in 2002 to get a supply of tuna fish for their Kirkland brand products. The supplier uses longline fishing practices, a fishing method that traps and kills a lot of bycatch, including dolphins. 

In 2019, Bumble Bee and other popular canned tuna brands were also accused of false “dolphin-safe” claims on their products.

Canned tuna products are some of the most popular canned fish products worldwide. Production of canned tuna requires killing massive amounts of fish caught from the sea. 

Fishing companies use many fishing practices to satisfy the high consumer demand for canned tuna products. Longline fishing is a commercial fishing practice used to catch fish like tuna and swordfish. The method uses many baited hooks hung on one fishing line. 

These hooks not only kill fish but often end up injuring or killing multiple non-targeted marine life animals like dolphins, sharks, turtles, and many more.


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