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In re Polar Bear Endangered Species Act Listing

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20318
Nos. 08-764, (D.D.C., 10/17/2011) (Sullivan, J.)

A district court upheld the FWS's determination that sport-hunted polar bear trophies may no longer be imported into the United States under the Marine Mammals Protection Act (MMPA) as of the effective date of the ESA listing rule for the species. In May 2008, the FWS determined threatened status for the polar bear under the ESA. Because the MMPA generally prohibits the import of marine mammal species that the FWS has designated as "depleted," the FWS also determined that polar bear trophies may no longer be imported into the United States. A hunting group and several individuals filed suit challenging the FWS' determination. But the MMPA mandates the FWS' conclusion that sport-hunted polar bear trophies are no longer eligible for import as a result of the species' depleted status. Sport hunting is not among the narrow, enumerated exceptions to the MMPA's ban on taking and importing depleted marine mammals. Accordingly, the FWS did not err when it administratively closed permit applications to import trophies that were pending when the listing rule took effect. The court also rejected arguments that the import of polar bear trophies would actually enhance the species within the meaning of the MMPA. The plaintiffs failed to satisfy the enhancement exception to the MMPA's ban on importing depleted species.