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Friday, 22 May, 1998, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
A safer world for dolphins
Dead dolphin caught in driftnet
No more dolphins dying caught in driftnets
The United States and six Latin American countries have signed a landmark agreement to protect dolphins threatened by commercial tuna fishing.

The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, completed the agreement in Washington with ambassadors from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.

The United States has agreed to lift trade embargos linked to tuna fishing on each country that signs the agreement.

Mrs Albright hailed the international dolphin protection programme as one of the strongest agreements ever negotiated to conserve marine life.

"It is not every day that I can honestly say we take action to benefit a group whose members are uniformly intelligent, open, friendly and can swim close to 40 miles an hour," she said at the signing ceremony in Washington.

Conservationists welcomed the agreement. Scott Burns of the World Wide Fund for Nature told the BBC that the agreement will help ensure that progress will continue to be made in the future.

Tuna are often found under schools of dolphins. Fishermen were using the dolphin to track the fish, running nets around both. It is estimated that in 1989 about 100,000 dolphins were killed in this way.

Mario Aguilar of the Mexican Ministry for the Environment told the BBC that the agreement has many provisions to ensure that dolphins are not caught in the fishermen's nets.

Under the agreement, the number of dolphins killed by the tuna industry will be limited to 5,000 each year.

All large tuna fishing vessels will have observers on board to monitor catches, while smaller vessels will not be allowed to go after tuna associated with dolphins.

An international panel will be established to ensure compliance.

The United States imposed a ban on tuna imports from countries which used such fishing techniques.

It is hoped that 12 other countries and the European Union, will eventually join the protection programme.

BBC News
Mario Aguilar of the Mexican Environment Ministry on the provisions of the agreement (36")
BBC News
Scott Burns of the World Wide Fund for Nature on the importance of the agreement (17")
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