Tuna and Dolphin fish are found in the waters of the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico and Central America. The large yellow fin tuna swim together with different species of Dolphin. This association is not clearly understood but its consequences are important to note since it has formed a base of successful fishing of the tuna and has also resulted in the deaths of a great number of dolphins. This therefore is the big tuna-dolphin issue where dolphins unlike the tuna have a low reproduction rate and their killing is affecting their number greatly.
It has long been understood that dolphins species are one of the intelligent species second to man. This also goes further to their size which research has suggested that their natural architecture is also as complex like that of man, which therefore raises important ethical issues about their killing and capture. The number of dolphins killed since fishing began in the late 1950s has been estimated to be over 6 million animals and resolving this ethical conflict has been a key challenge in the recent environmental policies. This tuna-dolphin dispute provides a good example of the ethical issues at stake since little attention has been paid by legislatures and decision makers to identify and pursue the clarity of the ethical issue argument.
The discovery of ethical viewpoint against the killing of dolphins in the political and legal discourse has always been problematic and as the debate continues, the explicitness of the ethical values behind the killings is being diluted by the legal argument which is trying to cover key principles against this act. The crucial argument here is that of ranking the needs and the desires of competing species but the ethical values that are necessary when handling the exercise is still complex and varied from different view points. Ethical values are being sidelined here because national law and international trade policies are easily subsumed in the model of competition between trade and environment. This makes it difficult for any policy to respond to the challenge brought forward by international trade rules, but when the underlying ethical approaches are made explicit with contradictions and similarities critically explored and understood, the killing of dolphins may end and thus create a better environment for the creatures whose intelligent is second to man.
I have found it completely unethical to kill dolphins because I had experienced the best time one day when I went swimming with a dolphin in an amusement park. It was one of the 20 minutes of inspiration I have never had in my life. As a personal opinion, I have always known that dolphins are mammals but my experience of seeing their features closer and feeling them was fascination. One of the features that dawned in me is that they have eye lashes with eyes that look like that of human and closer to that of a dog. One of the dolphins at the park was a new mother and her newborn was confined to a small area in the corner of the pool. You could see in her that she was concerned about her little one and took every minute to glance back if her newborn was safe. I felt that they are really fascinating animals and the idea of killing them for commercial purposes or for research is really unethical.
I am sorry to say that these ethical values are not carried by some groups of people because like some court in Australia which ruled for killing of the dolphin argued that it was extremely anthropocentric to provide some personhood protection to non human creatures only because they think like humans and my have features that resembles those of man. They ask what basis is used to decide that some species are persons. Giving examples, they claim that octopus is also intelligent specie and pigs are way cleverer than our companion (dog) so since we are all animals, we have to kill other species to eat and live including plant species. But when a species is given a right just like that of a person, this right should be generally provided to all other animals so that man can treat them appropriately. They try to reason out why a dolphin’s life should be more valuable than that of tuna and thus making the tuna vulnerable for trade.
Lobby groups on the other hand have always taken legal angles in tackling the issue of tuna and dolphin. They have long looked for a hook by which to try and create actions against those whom they see as perpetrators of wrongs which they wish to bring an end to. Their legal actions have been against commercial tuna fishermen. Nonetheless, the courts have always denied them the right to sue on behalf of the dolphins fish which continue to be killed accidentally as the tuna are being caught. The courts have always refused on the grounds that dolphins are not humans and should not have standing to sue. Class activists have therefore been denied the chance to bring class actions on behalf of the dolphins who if were self aware could be treated in a special way by the courts like “non humans” and be given the right to sue. The research done by them is cast aside as disinterested science but most of them are fighting out of it so that it can be motivated by extra scientific goals. They therefore continue to routinely present their arguments about the killings along with ethical treatment that should be given to the dolphins. In other words, the bottom line of what they are fighting for is that the dolphins should better receive better ethical treatment because this will be equal to enforcing legal rights. In such a circumstance, the activist groups suing tuna fishermen in the federal courts may recognize the lobby group’s rights to bring such law suits on behalf of the dolphin species.