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Cayman Turtle Farms, Ltd. v. Andrus

Citation: 9 ELR 20416
No. No. 78-1661, 478 F. Supp. 125/(D.D.C., 05/29/1979)

The court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment in a suit challenging the legality of regulations issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 insofar as they prohibit importation of all green sea trutle products derived from commercial mariculture operations. The ban on inportation of maricultured turtle products does not exceed defendants' regulatory authority under the Act because the statute clearly covers captive wildlife, such as those owned by plaintiff, held in the course of commercial activity.The regulations are in addition properly based on authority derived from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, ELR STAT. & REG. 40336. The court determines that, notwithstanding the statutory policy encouraging propagation of endangered species, the administrative record adequately supports the decision not to provide exemption in the regulations for turtle mariculture activities. The agencies had a reasonable evidentiary basis for concluding that a mariculture exemption would have a deleterious impact on sea turtle populations in the wild through the opening of additional turtle farms or increased poaching. They were also justified in determining that because of the inadequacy of enforcement measures an exemption was likely to lead to increased illegal importation of wild sea turtle products. The agencies had adequate support for their additional finding that the benefits of scientific research performed at the mariculture operation do not outweigh the risk posed to the species by an examption. The court concludes that the regulations should therefore be sustained.

Counsel for Plaintiff
William Bradford Reynolds, Carleton S. Jones
Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge
1800 M St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 331-4100

Counsel for Defendants
Rebecca A. Donnellan
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2771

Counsel for Intervening Defendants
Michael J. Bean, William A. Butler
Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.
1525 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-1484