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United States v. Mitchell

ELR Citation: 7 ELR 20484
Nos. No. 76-2908, 553 F.2d 996/10 ERC 1177/(5th Cir., 06/13/1977) Rev'd

Reversing the lower court, 6 ELR 20683, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that the criminal prohibitions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) do not reach conduct in the territorial waters of a foreign sovereignty. Defendant, an American citizen, was convicted of capturing dolphins within the territorial waters of the Bahamas. The court finds the issue to be whether Congress, in the criminal prohibitions of the MMPA, intended to extend its legislative authority to foreign countries. The nature of the MMPA does not compel its application in foreign countries because the statute is concerned with the right of the sovereign to control its natural resources. On the other hand, Congress may extend the reach of a law extraterritorially, but there is a presumption against extraterritorial extension unless expressly stated. The MMPA's express scope reaches only to the high seas. Conservation in other nations is left to diplomatic negotiations, and neither the statute nor its legislative history clearly express an intent that Congress wished the MMPA to apply in foreign territories. In addition, the court sets aside as being in excess of statutory authority a National Marine Fisheries Service regulation that extends United States jurisdiction under the MMPA to control conduct of American citizens in foreign territories.

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee
Thomas M. Sherouse, Ass't U.S. Attorney
300 Ainsley Bldg., 14 NE 1st Ave., Miami FL 33132
(305) 350-4471

Counsel for Defendant-Appellant
Edward B. Galante, Ass't Federal Public Defender
505 Ainsley Bldg., 14 NE 1st Ave., Miami FL 33132
(305) 350-4391

Before WISDOM and GEE, Circuit Judges, and BOOTLE,* District Judge.