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Dolphin-Safe Captain's Training Course

Tuna Tracking and Verification Program


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TTV Program



ATTENTION: On December 15, 2017, all Dolphin-Safe Tuna Tracking & Verification Program web pages will be migrated to:

Dolphin-Safe Captain's Training Course

Click here for a PDF version of the dolphin-safe captain's training course.

As an alternative to reading the PDF version, captains may complete the Tuna Tracking and Verification Program's dolphin-safe captain's training course by reading all of the information below on this web page (reading the Internet links is optional).

As a starting point, NMFS has translated the TTVP training course into 8 languages to ensure that the vast majority of languages spoken by captains producing tuna for the U.S. tuna product market are covered by the translations. Internet links to the translated versions have been posted on the TTVP home page (

Email questions in English to the Tuna Tracking and Verification Program at:


In order for tuna to qualify as “dolphin safe” in the United States, U.S. regulations require a written statement from the Captain of the vessel certifying that no purse seine net or other fishing gear was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during the fishing trip in which the tuna were caught, and that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured in the sets or other gear deployments in which the tuna were caught.

Captain certification of completion of this course is required for all fishing trips (other than for large purse seine vessels fishing in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean having a carrying capacity of more than 400 short tons (362.8 mt)) that begin on or after May 21, 2016.

Updated captain’s statement templates are available at:

This training course will cover four main topics:

  1. Identifying dolphins of the taxonomic family Delphinidae
  2. Identifying intentional gear deployment on or encirclement of dolphins
  3. Identifying dolphin mortality (i.e., death) and serious injury
  4. Physically separating dolphin-safe tuna from non-dolphin-safe tuna

The following drawings are adapted from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) publication “Marine Mammals of the World” by Thomas A. Jefferson, Stephen Leatherwood, and Marc A. Webber; 1993.

This document may be viewed or downloaded from the FAO web site at:

Illustrated Glossary of Technical Terms

Dorsal Fin Examples

A) Identifying Dolphins of the Taxonomic Family Delphinidae

Purpose: The National Marine Fisheries Service does not require captains to identify dolphins down to the species level. However, a captain must be able to identify whether an individual animal belongs to the dolphin taxonomic family, Delphinidae.

There are exceptions to all of these, but most dolphins have these characteristics.

For information on dolphin identification by species, please see the appropriate chapters in the publication “Marine Mammals of the World” by the FAO. Click here to view or download this publication from the FAO web site. You may also type the following Web address into your Internet browser to view this publication online:

B) Identifying Intentional Gear Deployment on or Encirclement of Dolphins

All tuna harvested on a fishing trip does not qualify as “dolphin safe” in the United States, if at any time, a purse seine net or other fishing gear was intentionally deployed on or used to encircle dolphins during that fishing trip.

For example, where a purse seine vessel deploys its net, if a dolphin(s) is seen in the encirclement area of the net only after the start of the set (i.e., the skiff is let go), this is considered an accidental capture set and is not considered an intentional deployment or encirclement of dolphins.

C) Identifying Dolphin Mortality and Serious Injury

Mortality Determination:

Serious Injury Determination:

1) The following injuries indicate a serious injury:

2) The following injuries, on a case-by-case basis, may or may not indicate a serious injury. However, the presence of multiple injuries may be a serious injury, but again, that depends on the severity of each injury on a case-by-case basis:

D) Physically Separating Dolphin-safe Tuna from Non-dolphin-safe Tuna

Updated: March 23, 2016