Fishermen in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean sought to exploit the synergy between dolphins and yellowfin tuna and began adopting a fishing method called purse seine fishing. Fishermen using this method inevitably set their nets around dolphins and tuna alike.
The Driftnet Act establishes a process under which the United States may take various actions against a foreign nation whose fishing vessels on the high seas engage in large-scale driftnet fishing. Italian fishing vessels were using these nets. Subsequent negotiations between Italy and the President of the U.S.
Since 1987, United States regulations have required that shrimp trawlers generally install turtle excluder devices (TEDs) when operating in U.S. waters where sea turtles are located (Section 609 of Public Law 101-162). A group of countries brought a complaint to the Dispute Settle Mechanism of the WTO.
The plaintiff is American Pelagic, a company whose President and sole shareholder, purchased a large boat, the Atlantic Star, in 1996 to transform it into a massive fishing vessel. In 1997, NMFS issued both a valid Atlantic mackerel permit and a Northeast Multispecies fish permit to the vessel.