The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has authorized the lifting of the embargo on yellowfin tuna from Colombia, announced Colombia’s Ministry for Commerce, Industry and Tourism. The action was taken after the Colombian government requested NOAA review Colombia’s fishing fleet compliance with standards enacted to ensure the sustainability of the fishery resource, conservation of other species, and the protection of dolphins.
The action will be reviewed annually for the next five years, allowing Colombia’s tuna industry to export yellowfin to the US again. In 2018, the United States imported $201.5 million dollars of the tuna variety. Colombia’s tuna can be exported to the United States free of duties and tariffs under the bilateral free trade agreement, but the country missed out the previous 29 years due to noncompliance with conservation measures.
Yellowfin tuna are not to be confused with the yellowtail, which is a member of the jack family and related to the amberjack.
Currently, the United States imports yellowfin tuna from Southeast Asian countries, and from hemispheric exporters Venezuela, Costa Rica, Suriname, Panama, Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico. Between 2012 and 2018 exports of yellowfin tuna grew 13%, averaging 2% annual growth.
The US has long standing measures in place, applying to all countries exporting tuna to the US, to protect dolphins, since traditional tuna fishing methods could be hazardous for the marine mammals. In the US, canned tuna products cary the “Dolphin-Safe” labels, used to denote compliance with laws designed to minimize dolphin fatalities during tuna fishing.
The Dolphin Conservation Agreement of 1992, or “La Jolla Agreement,” superseded by The Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program has contributed significantly to the protection of dolphins with strict regulations for commercial fishing fleets. Colombia signed the agreement in 1998, but did not ratify the treaty until 2012.