cat sea ocean fishing

Dolphin-Safe Cat Food? Think Again. Lawsuit Accuses Nestle-Purina of Using Suppliers Whose Fishing Practices Endanger Marine Mammals.

Three separate class action lawsuits filed last week accuse Nestle-Purina PetCare Co., StarKist Co., and Bumble Bee Foods of fraudulently labeling their products as “Dolphin Safe,” while use suppliers whose fishing practices endanger marine mammals.

The Nestle-Purina lawsuit, filed on May 13, 2019, in California federal courts, claims the company labels its Fancy Feast brand of cat food as “Dolphin Safe,” while the company buys tuna from brokers who trade with fisheries who deliberately encircle both tuna and dolphins, hauling the whole catch in and killing dolphins as a result.

And it’s not just dolphins that get caught in these drift nets; it’s also sea turtles, sharks, albatrosses, and other marine life that are getting tangled up and dying because they’re not using dolphin-safe fishing options.

According to the complaint, consumers are paying a premium because they want to make sure that they’re not harming dolphins or other marine mammals and that the tuna are caught in a humane and sustainable way.

The difficulty for the companies named in the suit is that there is no practical way of determining if the tuna they buy is indeed dolphin-safe because they buy from brokers who assure them it is. The problem for brokers is the origin of tuna is obscured because they buy fish from another company who’s buying from another company who’s buying it from another company in a tangled web of lies and deceit.

The high seas – in other words, the oceans beyond the 200-mile national limits – where the fish are caught are a lawless realm. Here fishing ships put out lines of hooks up to 75 miles long, which sweep the sea clean of predators and any other animals that encounter them.

Without knowing every step in the supply chain, it is difficult – if not impossible – for companies to make assurances that their products are indeed dolphin-safe. Without that knowledge, companies who are using such marketing ploys are doing so with the intent to defraud and deceive consumers.

Unhindered by regulation, driven by greed, companies like Nestle-Purina and the fishing industry is the greatest threat to our oceans. And as consumers, we must make the connection between our choices and the consequences they have on marine life.

If this story tells us anything, is that this is why traceability is so critical. Without it, we are shopping blindly, oblivious to the reality of a world where fish are caught without consideration of the dissemination of marine life.

The “Dolphin Safe” Canned Tuna Class Action Lawsuits are Lori Myers, et al. v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company, Case No. 5:19-­cv-­00898, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Duggan, et al. v. Bumble Bee Foods LLC, Case No. 4:19­-cv-­02564, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and Gardner, et al. v. Starkist Co., Case No. 4:19­-cv-­02561, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.


Nestle Purina Admits Putting Fish From Slave Labor in Cat Food; November 29, 2015

Nestle Purina Accused of Using Fish Tied to Slave Labor in Cat Food; August 29, 2015

Nestle Purina and Mars Admit Fish Caught by Slaves May be in Pet Food; July 29, 2015


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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (9) Write a comment

  1. For decades now, Nestle has shown it has no regard for even human infants in the face of its own profits. It should come as no surprise that this corporation has no regard for other precious forms of life. I have “voted with my dollars” by boycotting this evil corporation for 35 years. Do a google search for “Nestle companies” to find out what products you may never want to buy again.


    • Believe me, Brian, I am no stranger to Nestle.

      I’ve been writing about this issue since 2014, and apparently, nothing has changed – at least in a substantial way. They make a lot of noises that they are, but ultimately, fishing on the high seas is vast and tangled net of fishers and brokers. The actual source of fish can never be, with any certainty, known. There are a lot of ideas out there on how to establish a working, effective traceability program, but none that are feasible, practical or economic thus far.


  2. I stopped feeding any fish years ago because all are contaminated with plastics and now humans have tested positive for plastic particles from consuming fish.


      • It is a daily awareness of the fact that humans have destroyed this amazing planet, our home, and most have no idea. It makes me feel suicidal and sad.


        • Do yoi know WHY most people dp not know that we destroyed our planet? Because WE did not destroy the planet. We are not responsible for so called global warming, wevare not responsible for any of the other things that our govrrnment has brainwashed us into believing we did. Im not the one that traps anythi’ng in fish nets nor is my neighbor and .I dont think you are either. I reslize Washington. DC is run by a bunch of compromised, worthless iDiots, but you dont think if they really wanted to stop an one anywhere pn this planet from hurting ocean life, that they couldnt? You dont think they could cleanup the ocean, if they really wanted to? If THEY would stop sending planes up thay sprayed our planet with chemicals everyday, maybe our planet will quit warming up considering that’s what’s doing it. No, any damage done to this planet is done by people like them not people like you and I.. we have no say in it and we never have. You think we have because they tell you that . I will help fix it, but I will never take the blame except for not kicking every last one of them out of office.


          • The government is only part of the problem. We as human beings make choices every day which affect our environment. Take buying tuna, for example, if we know the fishing industry has problems then we can choose not to buy tuna. Once you know how your choices contribute to the destruction of marine life, or indeed of marine mammals, by continuing to buy products that are not “Dolphin Safe” you are part of the problem, not the solution.


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