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Dolphin-Safe Tuna from California to Thailand: Localisms in Environmental Certification of Global Commodity Networks

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This article analyzes the historical development of the United States-based dolphin-safe tuna campaign and associated labeling scheme in the early 1990s as a form of commodity network regulation. Adopting a political ecology approach, and drawing on theoretical frameworks of global production networks, conventions theory, institutional analysis, and the politics of scale, we consider the processes whereby the U.S. nongovernmental organization (NGO) Earth Island Institute (EII) came to hold a key position of power in defining, monitoring, and regulating the use of the term dolphin-safe. EII created international organization networks to monitor the tuna packing industry, at that time heavily concentrated in Thailand. Although the dolphin-safe tuna labeling scheme is an important part of one of the most successful consumer-driven global environmental campaigns ever launched, it contained a number of conflicts of power, values, and modes of representation, mirroring large conceptual differences in environmental activism and social justice. EII's view became embedded in the definitions and structures of the dolphin-safe tuna commodity network and the particular scaling of globalization that it encompassed.
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Keywords: dolphin-friendly; global production networks; international environmental movements; tuna-dolphin; voluntary environmental regulation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2: Department of Geography, University of British Columbia,

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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