US tuna row raises fears for Pacific dolphins

The Bush administration angered political opponents and two former government scientists yesterday over its efforts to loosen restrictions on tuna fishing, eroding protection for Pacific dolphins, which risk being injured or killed by the fishermen's nets.

The US Commerce Department recently decreed that it saw "no significant adverse impact" in the way fishermen chased and netted dolphins swimming directly above tuna schools.

The ruling opened the way for Mexican exporters to sell tuna and stamp the tins with a "dolphin-safe" label as required by a 1990 US law.

But Barbara Boxer, a Democrat senator from California, said yesterday she was introducing a bill to overturn the ruling and called for committee hearings to investigate whether the Bush administration was ignoring the findings of its own scientists.

Two of those scientists said their work had been deliberately suppressed by both presidents Bush and Clinton because they found evidence of significant harm to dolphins chased by fishing fleets.

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