It all sounds pretty straightforward. The US government has a law intended to protect dolphins. Under this law, companies that sell canned tuna that want to appeal to American consumers’ widespread concern for the environment can put the “dolphin-safe” label on their cans if and only if the tuna in the can were caught in a way that did not harm any dolphins.
You see, dolphins are harmed when giant fishing nets are used by commercial fishing boats to scoop up everything in their path.
Many Mexican fishing boats use dolphin-harming tactics. But rather than accept the fact that their tuna don’t qualify for the dolphin-safe label, the Mexican government went to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to try to get around the US law. The Mexicans basically argued that agreements governing international trade should take precedence.
The WTO sided with the Mexicans on the grounds, agreeing that Mexico is being unfairly excluded from US markets. To which the US replied: then Mexico should stop harming dolphins!
This case is likely to go on for many months, but one thing’s already clear: when environmental laws conflict with other kinds of laws, environmental laws can lose out.
To learn more, read this Washington Post article.