National Sea Turtle Coordinator
Natl. Marine Fisheries Service
Office of Protected Resources
1315 East West Hwy
Silver Spring, Maryland
Tel: (301) 713-2322 ext 147
Fax: (301) 427-2522
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 USC 1531 et seq.). The Endangered Species Act provides for the conservation of species that are in danger of becoming endangered or extinct throughout all or a significant portion of their range, and for the conservation of ecosystems on which they depend. “Species” is defined by the act to mean a species, a subspecies, or, for vertebrates only, a distinct population. As of 31 October 2000, the act, which is periodically amended, listed 1,822 species as either threatened or endangered (USFWS, 2000).
All six species of marine turtles found in the Caribbean are listed either as endangered or threatened under the act. The Kemp’s ridley, hawksbill, and leatherback turtles are listed as endangered throughout their ranges. The loggerhead turtle is listed as threatened throughout its range. The green turtle is listed as threatened, except for the “breeding colony populations” in Florida and on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered. The olive ridley turtle is listed as threatened, except for the “breeding colony populations” on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered.
The ESA makes it illegal for any person subject to U.S. jurisdiction to import, export, deliver, receive, carry, transport, ship, sell, or offer for sale in interstate commerce and in the course of a commercial activity, any species of plant or animal that has been listed as endangered or threatened pursuant to the act. It also makes it unlawful to take (defined in 16 USCS 1532 as “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct”) any listed species within the United States or its territorial seas. Certain exceptions to these prohibitions may be authorized by permit.
Section 4 requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)–and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in the case of marine turtles–to publish recovery plans for species listed as threatened or endangered. It also provides for the designation of “critical habitat” for listed species when “prudent and determinable.” Critical habitat includes geographic areas on which are found those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species and which may require special management considerations (16 USCS 1533[a]). Critical habitat designations affect only federal agency actions or federally funded or permitted activities. Section 7 provides authority to use land and water conservation funds to acquire habitat for the conservation of listed species.
Section 9(c) makes it unlawful for any person to engage in the trade of any specimens of wildlife or plants contrary to the provisions of CITES, or to possess any specimens “traded contrary to the provisions of the Convention.” While possession of an unlawfully imported wildlife specimen is illegal under the act, USFWS must prove that the specimen was illegally imported to obtain a conviction for possession.
The ESA regulates the domestic trade of CITES-listed species also listed under the threatened or endangered categories of the ESA, which prohibits interstate or foreign commerce in species listed as threatened or endangered.
Section 11(f) authorizes the secretaries of the Interior, the Treasury, and Transportation to promulgate any regulations appropriate to enforce the act. For example, the USFWS promulgated 50 CFR Part 17 to enforce the Endangered Species Act, and 50 CFR Part 23 to enforce CITES.
Wildlife and other property involved in a violation may be seized under authority of the ESA (16 USC 1531 et seq. and implementing regulations, 50 CFR Part 12).
Any person who knowingly violates any provision of the act may face a civil penalty or criminal charge. A civil penalty carries a maximum US$25,000 fine, while a criminal violation carries a maximum US$100,000 fine and one year imprisonment (16 USC 1540).