(CN) – The D.C. Circuit upheld the ban on the importation of polar bear trophies, rejecting a challenge from hunters, industry groups and the state of Alaska.
In May 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
At the same time, it barred the importation into the United States of polar bear trophies, including pelts, claws and heads, obtained by sport hunters, even if the animal’s death predated the bear’s listing.
Alaska, hunters and a number of industry groups, headed by the Safari Club International, challenged the polar bear listing and the trophy-importation ban.
After upholding the polar bear’s threatened status earlier this year, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the service’s ban on trophies Tuesday.
“Under the Safari Club’s interpretation, whether a particular species is protected by the import prohibitions would turn on the procedural mechanism by which that species became depleted,” Judge David Tatel wrote for the three-judge panel. “Nothing in the legislative record, however, suggests that Congress intended such an odd result.”
In addition, if the government intended to prohibit only the species that had already been listed as threatened when they were killed, it would have made this intention clear in the statute, the court found.
“Sections 101(a)(3)(B) and 102(b)(3) [of the Marine Mammal Protection Act] prohibit importation of depleted species, unless the importation falls into one of the narrow exceptions for specific purposes such as scientific research and enhancing survival of the species,” Tatel wrote. “Importation of sport-hunted trophies is not among these enumerated exceptions.”
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