Judge Spanks Commerce Secretary Over Dolphin-Safe Rules

In a ruling made public yesterday, a federal judge resoundingly rejected the efforts of Bush administration officials to relax “dolphin-safe” standards for tuna. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson’s ruling was, to put it mildly, strongly worded. “The record is replete with evidence that [Commerce Secretary Donald Evans] was influenced by policy concerns unrelated to the best available scientific evidence,” read the 51-page ruling. “This court has never, in its 24 years, reviewed a record of agency action that contained such a compelling portrait of political meddling.” The Commerce Department had proposed rewriting the rules to certify tuna as dolphin-safe even if dolphins were swept up in fish nets, as long as observers certified that the dolphins were unharmed. (Mexican observers are regularly bribed to overlook dead or injured dolphins.) Henderson called the decision “arbitrary and capricious.” Government officials are reviewing the decision and, one suspects, applying salve to their stinging rear ends.