A US judge on Tuesday said retail club store Costco must face a lawsuit claiming it falsely advertises and labels its Kirkland Signature-brand White Albacore Tuna in Water "dolphin safe," despite allegations it uses fishing methods that harm and kill dolphins.
Reuters reported US District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco said the consumer plaintiff in the proposed nationwide class action plausibly alleged that Costco fraudulently pledged adherence to a higher dolphin-safe standard than federal law requires, and then broke its "heightened promise."
The plaintiff Melinda Wright accused Costco of violating California consumer protection laws by claiming its tuna was caught with "100% Monofilament Leaders & Circle Hooks," a practice she said is not dolphin-safe, and was "100% Traceable from Sea to Shelf," which she said could not be verified.
The Dolphin Safe standard has long been criticized by both consumers and businesses. In 2012, the World Trade Organization’s appeals court ruled against US Dolphin Safe tuna labels, saying they restrict access to the US market for Mexico, which brought the case against the United States in 2008.
In 2019, a class-action suit was brought against Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee Foods and StarKist by a group of US consumers claiming the companies' Dolphin Safe labeling was misleading and fraudulent. That lawsuit remains in litigation.