Whales: Related Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
Adams v. Vance 187 U.S. App. D.C. 41; 570 F.2d 950 (1977)

An American Eskimo group had hunted bowhead whales as a form of subsistence for generations and gained an exemption from the commission to hunt the potentially endangered species.  An injunction was initially granted, but the Court of Appeals vacated the injunction because the interests of the United States would likely have been compromised by requiring the filing of the objection and such an objection would have interfered with the goal of furthering international regulation and protection in whaling matters.

Anderson v. Evans 314 F.3d 1006 (9th Cir. 2002)

Concerned citizens and animal conservation groups brought an action against United States government, challenging the government's approval of quota for whale hunting by Makah Indian Tribe located in Washington state.  On appeal by the plaintiffs, the Court of Appeals held that the failure of the government to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before approving a whale quota for the Makah Tribe violated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The court also found that the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) applied to tribe's proposed whale hunt, as the proposed whale takings were not excluded by the treaty with the tribe.

Anderson v. Evans 371 F.3d 475 (9th Cir. 2004)

Advocacy groups challenged governments approval of quota for whale hunting by the Makah Indian Tribe.  The Court of Appeals held that in granting the quota, the government violated the NEPA by failing to prepare an impact statement, and, that the MMPA applied to the tribe's whale hunt.  REVERSED.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 789 F.3d 1206 (11th Cir. 2015) Animal Advocacy Organizations argued the district court erred in ruling United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s decision to renew an exhibitor’s license did not violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). According to the organizations, the USDA may not renew a license when USDA knows an exhibitor is noncompliant with any animal welfare standards on the anniversary of the day USDA originally issued the license. The 11th Circuit, however, found it had subject matter jurisdiction to review the organizations' challenge to the renewal under the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the USDA's interpretation—which did not condition renewal on compliance with animal welfare standards on the anniversary of the license issuance date—was a reasonable one. The district court’s decision was therefore affirmed.
Animal Protection Institute of America v. Mosbacher 799 F.Supp 173 (D.C. 1992)

Wildlife protection organizations, including the API, brought action against Secretary of Commerce to challenge permits for importing false killer whales and belugas for public display. Zoo association and aquarium seeking the whales intervened.  The District Court the whale watchers had standing and the permits were not abuse of discretion.

Center for Biological Diversity v. Chertoff Slip Copy, 2009 WL 839042 (N.D.Cal.)

Plaintiff, the Center for Biological Diversity, brought an action against Defendant, the United States Coast Guard, alleging that Defendant violated the ESA by failing to consult with the NMFS to ensure that Defendant’s activities in the Santa Barbara Channel and other shipping lanes off the California Coast would not harm the continued existence of threatened and/or endangered species after Defendant amended Traffic Separation Schemes (“TSS”) and a number of blue whales were subsequently struck by ships and killed.   On the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment, the United States District Court , N.D. California dismissed Plaintiff’s claims pertaining to Defendant’s implementation of or actions under the TSS in the approaches to Los Angeles – Long Beach and granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and denied Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment with respect to Defendant’s alleged violations of the ESA arising out of Defendant’s implementation of or actions under the TSS in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Center for Biological Diversity v. Lohn 483 F.3d 984 (C.A.9 (Wash.), 2007)

This case questions whether the federal government's policy for listing killer whales under the Endangered Species Act is invalid. The Fish and Wildlife Service initially issued a proposed ruling that listing the Southern Resident was “not warranted” because the Southern Resident was not “significant” to its taxon. The district court set aside the Service's “not warranted” finding, and ordered the Service to reexamine whether the Southern Resident should be listed as an endangered species and to issue a new finding within twelve months. After again being challenged by plaintiff, the Service issued a final rule listing the Southern Resident as an endangered (as opposed to threatened) species. The Service contends that this case is now moot because it has, since the district court's decision, issued a proposed rule that recommended listing the Southern Resident as a threatened species and ultimately has issued a final rule listing the Southern Resident as an endangered species. This court agreed, and thus vacated the district court's order and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the case as moot.

Center For Biological Diversity v. Lohn 511 F.3d 960 (C.A.9 (Wash.), 2007)

In this case, the court is asked to decide whether the federal government's policy for listing killer whales under the Endangered Species Act is invalid. The Center for Biological Diversity, along with eleven co-petitioners not parties to this appeal, petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the Southern Resident killer whale as an endangered species under the ESA. Initially, the Service issued a proposed ruling based on its DPS policy that concluded listing the Southern Resident was “not warranted” because the Southern Resident was not “significant” to its taxon. After the Center challenged this action, the district court set aside the Service's “not warranted” finding because it failed to utilize the best available scientific data when determining whether the Southern Resident was “significant” under that policy. Pursuant to the district court's order, the Service reexamined the listing petition and issued a proposed rule that recommended listing the Southern Resident as a threatened species. The Center appealed, and the Service issued a final rule listing the Southern Resident as endangered (as opposed to threatened). The Service contends that this case is now moot because it has ultimately issued a final rule listing the Southern Resident as an endangered species. This court agreed, finding that declaring the DPS Policy unlawful would serve no purpose in this case because the Service has listed the Southern Resident as an endangered species, the Center's ultimate objective.

Cetacean Cmty. v. President of the United States 249 F. Supp. 2d 1206 (D.C. Hawaii, 2003) Plaintiff, a community of whales, dolphins, and porpoises, sued Defendants, the President of the United States and the United States Secretary of Defense, alleging violations of the (NEPA), the (APA), the (ESA), and the (MMPA).  The Plaintffs were concerned with the United States Navy's development and use of a low frequency active sonar (LFAS) system. The community alleged a failure to comply with statutory requirements with respect to LFAS use during threat and warfare conditions.
Cetacean Community v. Bush 386 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2004)

In this case, the court was asked to decide whether the world's cetaceans have standing to bring suit in their own name under the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.  The Cetaceans challenge the United States Navy's use of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active Sonar ("SURTASS LFAS") during wartime or heightened threat conditions.  In finding that the Cetaceans lacked standing, the court here agreed with the district court in Citizens to End Animal Suffering & Exploitation, Inc., that "[i]f Congress and the President intended to take the extraordinary step of authorizing animals as well as people and legal entities to sue, they could, and should, have said so plainly." 836 F.Supp. at 49.  In the absence of any such statement in the ESA, the MMPA, or NEPA, or the APA, the court concluded that the Cetaceans do not have statutory standing to sue.

Georgia Aquarium v. Pritzker Case 1:13-cv-03241-AT (2015) In this case, the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied the Georgia Aquarium’s application for a permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to import 18 beluga whales from Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk for public display. The Aquarium challenged the defendant National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) decision to deny a permit to import the beluga whales as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The Court found that defendant National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was correct in following the statutory mandate of the MMPA after it found that the Sakhalin-Amur stock of the whales is likely declining and is experiencing adverse impacts in addition to Russian live-capture operations. Further, some of the beluga whales destined for the import were potentially young enough to still be nursing and dependent upon their mothers.
Hopson v. Kreps 622 F.2d 1375 (9th Cir. 1980)

Action brought on behalf of Alaskan Eskimos which challenged the validity of the Department of Commerce regulations adopted pursuant to IWC Act. Plaintiffs claim is the the Commission exceeded its jurisdiction under the Convention when it eliminated the native subsistence exemption for Alaskan Eskimos. The Court reverses and remands the districts courts dismissal of the action.

Humane Society International Inc v Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd (2008) 244 ALR 161

The applicant, an incorporated public interest organisation, sought an injunction to restrain the respondent Japanese company which owned several ocean vessels engaged in, and likely to further engage in, whaling activities in waters claimed by Australia. It was found that the applicant had standing to bring the injunction and the respondent engaged in activities prohibited by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). Orders were entered against against the respondent even though it had no assets in Australia and the likelihood of being able to enforce judgment was very low.

Inst. of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd Conservation Soc'y 2014 WL 3579639 (W.D. Wash. July 21, 2014) After the International Court of Justice ruled against Japan in the Whaling in the Antarctic case, Sea Shepherd moved to dismiss the Ninth Circuit’s earlier ruling regarding Sea Shepherd’s own actions in the Antarctic. Sea Shepherd claimed that because the Institute had announced that it would not engage in whaling in the 2014-15 season, its claim was moot. This argument, though, ignored the fact the Institute also stated that it plans to resume whaling in the future, leading the Court to dismiss the motion.
Inst. of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd Conservation Soc. 860 F. Supp. 2d 1216 (W.D. Wash. 2012) rev'd, 708 F.3d 1099 (9th Cir. 2013) and rev'd, 725 F.3d 940 (9th Cir. 2013) The Institute of Cetacean Research, a Japanese whaling group, sued the direct action environmental protection organization Sea Shepherd, claiming that Sea Shepherd’s actions taken against the whaling group’s vessels in the Antarctic are violent and dangerous. The Institute claimed that Sea Shepherd had rammed whaling ships, thrown dangerous objects on to the ships, attempted to prevent them from moving forward, and navigated its vessels in such a way as to endanger the Japanese ships and their crews. The Institute’s request for an injunction was denied when the Court held that the Institute did not establish the necessary factors. The Court did state, however, that though Sea Shepherd’s acts did not constitute piracy, it did not approve of the organization’s methods or mission.
Inst. of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd Conservation Soc. 725 F.3d 940 (9th Cir. 2013) After the Institute was denied an injunction in the trial court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction preventing Sea Shepherd from attacking any of the Institute’s vessels in any way and from coming within 500 yards of any Institute vessel operating in the open sea.
Institute of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd Conservation Soc. 708 F.3d 1099 (C.A.9 (Wash.),2013)

Several whalers brought suit against Paul Watson and the Sea Shepard Society—of Animal Planet fame—under the Alien Tort Statute for acts that amounted to piracy and that violated international agreements regulating conduct on the high seas. Though the district court denied the whalers a preliminary injunction and dismissed the whalers' piracy claim, the Ninth Circuit found in favor for the whalers. The case was reversed and instructed to be transferred to another district judge; Circuit Judge Smith dissented on the instruction to transfer.

Japan Whaling Association v. American Cetacean Society 106 S. Ct. 2860 (1986)

Congress had granted the Secretary the authority to determine whether a foreign nation's whaling in excess of quotas diminished the effectiveness of the IWC, and the Court found no reason to impose a mandatory obligation upon the Secretary to certify that every quota violation necessarily failed that standard.

Jones v. Gordon 792 F.2d 821 (9th Cir. 1986)

A permit was authorized to Sea World to capture killer whales. No environmental impact statement was prepared. Plaintiffs allege that the issuance of the permit without preparation of an environmental impact statement violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The Court holds that the permit must be reconsidered after an environmental impact statement is prepared.

Kanoa Inc., v. Clinton 1 F. Supp. 2d 1088 (1998)

Plaintiff cruise company filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to halt scientific research of the defendant government, alleging standing under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), the Marine Mammal Protection Act ("MMPA"), and the Endangered Species Act ("ESA").

Kohola v. National Marine Fisheries Service 314 F.Supp.2d 1029 (D.C. Hawaii, 2004)

Environmental groups challenged the NMFS's use of data in its classification of the Hawaii longline fishery as a "category III" fishery.  Held:  the NMFS has discretion to consider reliability of only available scientific data in classifying fishery.

Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. National Marine Fisheries Service 409 F.Supp.2d 379 (S.D.N.Y.2006)

The Natural Resources Defense Council sought material from the National Marine Fisheries Service about an incident of mass stranding of whales under the Freedom of Information Act because the Council thought it had to do with navy sonar use. The Service did not want to release the materials, saying they were protected from disclosure because they were discussions of agency decision-making. The court required disclosure of most of the materials because purely factual matters are not protected from disclosure.

Ocean Mammal Inst. v. Gates Slip Copy, 2008 WL 2185180 (D.Hawai'i)

Plaintiffs sued the Navy over the use of sonar; the Plaintiffs feared that the sonar would kill whales and other marine life.  This case dealt with the required production of documents the Defendant claimed were privileged and or work product material.  The Court found that the Defendant must hand over the material to the Plaintiffs because the documents were not in fact privileged.

Strahan v. Linnon 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 16314 (1st Cir.)

Coast Guard vessels struck and killed Northern Right whales. Plaintiffs claim that these incidents constitute takings in violation of the ESA and MMPA. Court holds that the Coast Guard could implement reasonable and prudent alternatives that would reduce the striking of whales.

Tilikum ex rel. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Sea World Parks & Entertainment, Inc. 842 F.Supp.2d 1259 (S.D.Cal.,2012)

Plaintiffs sued aquarium for declaratory and injunctive relief seeking a declaration that wild-captured orcas were being held in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibition on slavery and involuntary servitude. The court dismissed the action, holding that Plaintiffs had no standing because the Thirteenth Amendment only applies to humans, and therefore, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

UFO CHUTING OF HAWAII, INC. v. YOUNG 327 F.Supp.2d 1220 (D. Hawaii, 2004)

Parasail operators challenged the validity of a state law that banned parasailing in navigable waters.  Both parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.  The District Court held first that the statute in question was preempted by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and second, that the Endangered Species Act did not repeal the MMPA's preemption provision.  Judgment for the parasail operators.

UFO Chuting of Hawaii, Inc. v. Young 380 F.Supp.2d 1166 (2005, D.Hawai'i)

Some parasail operators brought an action against state officials challenging validity of a state law that banned parasailing in navigable waters. Defendants argued that the court's order should be reconsidered in light of an intervening change in federal law that they say allows for the seasonal parasailing ban.  After vacation of summary judgment in favor of operators, 2005 WL 1910497, the state moved for relieve from final judgment.  The District Court held that the federal law permitting Hawaii to enforce state laws regulating recreational vessels for purpose of conserving and managing humpback whales did not violate separation of powers doctrine, and federal law did not violate Equal Protection Clause.

Whaling in the Antarctic Whaling in the Antarctic (Austl. v. Japan), 2010 Judgment. In June 2010, Australia commenced proceedings against Japan at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), alleging that Japan has continued an extensive whaling program in breach of its obligations as a signatory to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). At issue was the moratorium on commercial whaling agreed upon in the 1980s. According to Australia, though Japan claimed to be killing whales purely for scientific reasons, the true purpose of the program was commercial. Japan did not deny that it was killing whales in the Antarctic, but claimed instead that because the ICRW grants each nation state the right to issue licenses for scientific whaling as it sees fit, Japan’s whaling program was legal. The ICJ ruled that Japan's Antarctic whaling program was not actually for scientific whaling and must end.