Judge launches lawsuit claiming US botched marine wildlife records
- Groups claimed the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to update population analyzes of protected marine mammals
- Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network may file new complaint
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit saying the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to update records used to assess the health of Pacific walruses and other marine mammals , leaving animals more vulnerable to commercial activities.
Chief Justice Joseph Spero has dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, giving them until November 5 to file an amended complaint.
The February groups complaint alleged that the Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) by failing to “review and revise” information on status, range, population size and new threats from animals – in some cases for more than a year. decade. But Spero ruled that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently allege violations of the 1972 MMPA.
Emily Jeffers, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the judge had “ruled on a technicality” and the plaintiffs were going to move forward. Home Office spokesman Tyler Cherry, which oversees the Service, declined to comment.
The MMPA requires the Service to prepare “stock assessment reports” for marine mammals whose populations it monitors. It must do so every year for species at risk – such as those listed under the Endangered Species Act, and every three years for others.
The reports describe minimum population levels that can help establish rules governing activities such as oil and gas exploration plans.
But Spero said the plaintiffs appeared to have “assumed” the service had failed to complete the required reviews, which are conducted internally.
“This kind of conclusive statement, unsupported by factual allegations, does not reach the required level of plausibility,” the judge wrote.
Spero’s decision notes that the Service, in court documents and at a hearing, said periodic reviews have been completed.
He added that although environmental groups allege threats such as climate change amplifying pressures on marine animal stocks, such claims in themselves do not trigger an obligation to review stock assessment reports.
The judge wrote that only the Service’s internal findings that the status of a stock has changed, or an internal finding that it can be determined more accurately, compels it to create a stock assessment report. revised.
The case is Center for Biological Diversity, Inc. et al v. de la Vega et al, US District Court for the California Northern District, No. 3: 21-cv-01182.
For the Center for Biological Diversity, Inc. et al: Miyoko Sakashita; and Emily Jeffers with the Center for Biological Diversity
For de la Vega et al: Taylor Mayhall with the US Department of Justice
Greens say FWS failed to update marine mammal population records