Dolphin-safe, takings, prairie dog verdicts

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2000:

Thelton E. Henderson, chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, on April 11 ruled that Commerce Secretary William Daley “acted contrary to the law and abused his discretion when he triggered a change in the ‘dolphin safe’ label standard.” Daley, despite the verdict, on April 12 lifted the U.S. ban on tuna imports from Mexico which had stood since 1991, imposed because Mexican fishing methods were not “dolphin safe.” New York-based U.S. Court of International Trade judge Judith Barzilay on April 14 refused to reimpose the ban. “We could start exporting like crazy now, but nobody is going to buy tuna that doesn’t have the ‘dolphin safe’ label,” said Mexican fisheries secretariat spokesperson Dalia de la Pena Wing. Since 1990, “dolphin safe” labels have designated tuna caught by means not killing any dolphins. In 1995 a General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs panel held that the U.S. law which began “dolphin safe” labeling unduly inhibited trade by excluding imports of non-“dolphin safe” tuna. The GATT decree led to extensive revision of the 1990 law, via the 1997 International Dolphin Conservation Program Act. Daley then tried to administratively extend eligibility to use “dolphin safe” labeling to all legally imported tuna, but Henderson held that Daley had not documented any need to do so. Henderson in May 1990 banned imports of yellowfin tuna from Mexico, Venezuela, and V a n u a t u, under the 1988 amendments to the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, and in January 1992 invoked the same law to ban $266 million worth of tuna imports from 30 nations. Appeals of the 1992 verdict led to the 1995 GATT ruling.

The Pacific Whale Foundation, of Kihei, Hawaii, on April 3 admitted to two counts of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act––failing to keep research data and falsifying records––and agreed to pay a fine of $5,000. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration originally charged PWF with seven violations of the MMPA, allegedly committed in 1998, and sought fines totaling $13,000. PWF president and founder Greg Kaufman b l a m e d the violations on a researcher who is no longer with PWF. PWF is one of many ventures which fund nonprofit scientific work via whale-watching. Holders of scientific research permits are allowed to go closer to whales than other whale-watchers. Critics often question where valid research ends and mere touristic entertainment begins. [See “Licensed to kill,” A N I M A L PEOPLE, September 1997.]

The U.S. Supreme Court on April 2 let stand a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that Lloyd Good Jr. of Sugarloaf Key, Florida, “could not have had a reasonable expectation that he would be allowed to fill 10 acres of wetlands in order to develop” 13 acres for housing at Sugarloaf Shores “in view of the regulatory climate that existed when he acquired the subject property” in 1973, just before passage of the federal Endangered Species Act. Good had contended that he was entitled to federal compensation because the ESA had deprived him of productive use of the land. The case was seen as a key test of the “takings” theory favored by ESA opponents, which holds that restrictions on land use imposed to benefit endangered or threatened species amount to an unconstitutional seizure of private property. Good is father of Lloyd Good III, who with Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry started the Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary nearby in 1994. The project collapsed after two years of acrimony with other participants. Lloyd Good III and O’Barry were in June 1999 fined $59,500 for allegedly illegally releasing the former U.S. Navy dolphins Buck and Luther in May 1996.

The Fund for Animals, Sinapu, and Rocky Mountain Animal Defense on April 14 announced that the federal Bureau of Prisons has settled a lawsuit brought against the poisoning of thousands of blacktailed prairie dogs in November 1999 at the federal penitentiary in Englewood, Colorado, by agreeing to prepare a prairie dog management plan for the site, plus an environmental impact study; consider non-lethal management methods; and consider using the Englewood property as a relocation site for prairie dogs brought from other federal land. The Bureau of Prisons poisoned the prairie dogs while the species was under consideration for a “threatened” listing under the Endangered Species Act. The Interior Department ruled on February 3 that ESA protection is warranted, but did not move to implement the ruling.

(The National Wildlife Federation, umbrella for 48 state hunting clubs, in 1998 began campaigning to have prairie dogs recognized as a threatened species. ANIMAL PEOPLE asked repeatedly if members and members of affiliates had been asked to refrain from participating in prairie dog shoots, never getting an answer. On March 12, however, NWF formally asked federal land management agencies to do an environmental study on recreational prairie dog shooting.)

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