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International Dolphin Conservation Programme

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International Dolphin Conservation Programme



Decision 1999/337/EC on the signature of the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Programme


  • It enables the European Union (EU) to approve the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Programme which aims tp reduce dolphin mortalities during tuna fishing.
  • It also paved the way to the EU joining the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) which is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
  • These 2 steps allow the EU to play an active role in the management of the Agreement.


The agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Programme is aimed at limiting dolphin mortalities during tuna fishing in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Specifically, it aims to:

  • gradually reduce incidental dolphin mortalities in the tuna purse-seine* fishery in the eastern Pacific Ocean to levels approaching zero, through setting annual limits;
  • promote research for the purpose of seeking ecologically-sound ways to catch large yellowfin tunas, not along with dolphins;
  • ensure the long-term sustainability of tuna stocks by avoiding the bycatch* and discard of juvenile tuna.


The parties to the agreement are obliged to limit total incidental dolphin mortality during tuna fishing to no more than 5,000 annually (in 2015, actual mortality was 533 dolphins). To achieve this, they have agreed to:

  • establish a system that provides incentives to vessel captains to reduce incidental dolphin mortality, as well as a system of technical training and certification for captains;
  • promote research for the purpose of improving fishing gear, equipment and fishing techniques;
  • establish a fair system for assigning dolphin mortality limits (DMLs), in accordance with the rules of the agreement;
  • impose certain operational requirements (concerning dolphin safety gear and equipment, and the release of dolphins, etc.) on vessels;
  • develop a system for the tracking and verification of tuna fished with and without mortality or serious injury of dolphins;
  • exchange scientific research data.

Long-term sustainability

In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of marine life, the contracting parties must:

  • draw up programmes which make it possible to assess, monitor and minimise the bycatch of juvenile tuna and non-target species;
  • develop and require the use of selective fishing gear and techniques;
  • require that vessels release alive sea turtles and other threatened species.

In addition to these specific obligations, the signatory parties must also fulfil the following obligations in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of tuna stocks and other stocks of marine life:

  • adoption of conservation and management measures;
  • assessment of the catch and bycatch of juvenile yellowfin tuna and other stocks of living marine resources associated with tuna fishing.

Observation programme

An on-board observation programme must be introduced by all the parties for ships with a carrying capacity greater than 363 metric tons. On-board observers must undergo specialist training and gather all relevant information on the fishing operations of the vessel to which they are assigned.

The parties must comply with these requirements and with the operational requirements by means of:

  • an annual certification and inspection programme for vessels;
  • sanctions applicable in the event of violations;
  • incentives.

Review and assessment

  • Each party will set up a National Scientific Advisory Committee to conduct scientific reviews and assessments, make recommendations to its own government and ensure the regular exchange of data among the parties. In practice, this role has been taken over by the IATTC Scientific Staff and the IATTC Scientific Advisory Committee.
  • An International Review Panel is set up, composed of representatives of the signatory parties, NGOs and the tuna industry. This Commission carries out supervisory and analysis tasks. It recommends to the meeting of the parties relevant measures for achieving the objectives of the agreement.


It has applied from 26 April 1999.


For more information, see:


Purse-seine: a type of net used to capture fish at or close to the water’s surface. Once a school of fish has been located, the net is dropped into the water and pulled around the fish. Once they have been surrounded, a rope is tightened around the fish, forming a purse shape, and pulled on board the fishing vessel.

Bycatch: fish or other marine species caught unintentionally while attempting to catch certain target species.


Council Decision 1999/337/EC of 26 April 1999 on the signature by the European Community of the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Programme (OJ L 132, 27.5.1999, pp. 1–27)


Council Regulation (EC) No 1936/2001 of 27 September 2001 laying down control measures applicable to fishing for certain stocks of highly migratory fish (OJ L 263, 3.10.2001, pp. 1–8)

See consolidated version

Council Decision 2005/938/EC of 8 December 2005 on the approval on behalf of the European Community of the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Programme (OJ L 348, 30.12.2005, pp. 26–27)

last update 07.02.2017