Committee for Humane Legislation v. Richardson

540 F.2d 1141 (1976)

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Committee for Humane Legislation v. Richardson

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
540 F.2d 1141 (1976)

Facts

In 1972, Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act (the protection act) in response to the pervasive use of purse-seine fishing within the commercial-fishing industry. The practice involved trapping porpoises into nets to capture all the tuna that swam alongside of the porpoises. The practice led to a dramatic increase in incidental porpoise injuries and deaths. Congress authorized the secretary of Commerce (secretary) to license a limited number of permits to commercial fishers that allowed purse-seine fishing and the incidental taking of marine mammals. Before issuing the permit, the secretary was required to determine the existing levels of any marine mammal species that could be affected by the permit, the species’ optimum sustainable populations, and evidence showing that the permit would not disadvantage the populations of the species. The protection act also required that the secretary specify in the permit the number and kind of mammals that could be taken and that the applicant demonstrate that any marine mammal taking would comply with the protection act. In 1974, the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) allowed for commercial fishers to apply for permits allowing the incidental taking of porpoises without conducting any research regarding the optimum sustainable level of porpoises. The NMFS then issued the American Turnaboat Association (the association) a permit without requiring that the association demonstrate how any incidental mammal taking would comply with the protection act. NMFS also failed to include within the permit the specific number and kind of mammals that could be incidentally taken. The Committee for Humane Legislation (plaintiff) sued Secretary Elliot L. Richardson (defendant) for failing to comply with the protection act. The district court found that the permit was void under the act. The matter was appealed. While the appeal was pending, the NMFS began a three to seven year study to determine the porpoise’s optimum sustainable population level.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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