The Clinton administration today is expected to give tuna processors and canners the go-ahead to label their products “dolphin-safe” even if they use large, encircling nets that can snare and kill dolphins. That fishing method was once thought to have killed 100,000 dolphins a year and spurred a 1990 import ban on tuna caught by such nets. The annual death toll in recent years has dropped to 3,000, however, and the Commerce Department has concluded that there is “insufficient evidence” that encirclement poses a significant threat to dolphins and that the import ban should be dropped. The three major tuna processors in the U.S. have said they will continue to refrain from processing tuna caught with the encirclement method. Environmentalists are split on the issue, with some groups lambasting the change and others saying it is an important step to opening up the U.S. market and encouraging other countries to adopt some form of dolphin protection.

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