WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday appealed a World Trade Organization decision that accuses Washington of imposing overly stringent rules on dolphin-safe tuna from Mexico.

"Our dolphin-safe labeling measures for tuna products provide information for American consumers as they make food purchasing decisions for their families," Andrea Mead, a spokeswoman for the US trade representative said in a statement.

"Our decision to appeal the WTO ruling in this case demonstrates the commitment of the United States to our dolphin-safe labeling measures," she said.

The WTO had found that Washington was overly restrictive in trying to protect dolphins.

Under the US measures, producers of tuna products -- whether foreign or domestic -- have the option of labeling tuna products that meet the standards of the US provisions as "dolphin safe."

One such standard is "that the label cannot be used if dolphins are purposefully chased and encircled in order to catch tuna. This fishing method is harmful to dolphins," the US trade office said.

Mexico argues that the measures violate trade rules by limiting access to the US market for Mexican tuna.

But Washington insists that some Mexican fishing vessels use the proscribed method of throwing nets around dolphins to catch tuna.

Some dolphin species are endangered due to overfishing and water pollution.

The dispute between the US and Mexico dates to 1991.

In October 2008, Mexico filed a request for the Geneva-based WTO to settle the row with its neighbor.

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Photo by Arnaud 25 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons