June 01, 2013

Oceans and Ice: Scientific Uncertainty in the Regulation of Protected Species

Ryan P. Steen and Sara a. Leverette

In the United States, society has determined that certain species should receive special protection. Generally, and as reflected by two of our primary federal wildlife management statutes, the decision to prioritize species protection arises from recognition of the connection between human action and species health. The decision to protect imperiled species, as reflected in the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), was motivated by an acknowledgement that certain species were going, or had gone, extinct as a result of human actions. 16 U.S.C. § 1531(a). In the case of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA), an increase in public awareness of widespread dolphin mortalities caused by tuna purse seine fisheries led to comprehensive federal protection of all marine mammals. Id. § 1361(1); see, e.g., HR Rep. No. 92-707 (1971), reprinted in 1972 U.S.C.C.A.N. 4144, 4148.

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