Stopping Unlawful Wolf Hunts

photo credit Frédéric Vigne

Overview

Project Coyote, in coalition with several organizations, sued the state of Wisconsin over its decision to authorize a quota of 300 wolves for the November wolf hunt, on top of the 218 known killed in a February hunt. The combination of two killing seasons in a single year, at these high levels and contrary to scientific data, may result in the destruction of half of the state wolf population in 2021, and puts the survival of the Wisconsin wolf population at risk. The lawsuit alleges that the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (Board) disregarded the recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and chose to set an arbitrary and unsustainable kill level without regard for the health and well-being of the wolf population or sustainable ecosystems in which the wolves play an integral role. The lawsuit also alleges that the 2011 law that requires Wisconsin to hold an annual wolf hunt is unconstitutional. It asks the Dane County Circuit Court to overturn the law, reverse the quota set by the Board, and enjoin DNR from issuing licenses for the November hunt.

Significant Developments

August 31, 2021: In the News - ABC News

Wildlife groups sue to stop Wisconsin wolf hunt

August 31, 2021: Case Update

Complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court to stop the fall 2021 wolf hunt and overturn the law requiring an annual wolf hunt.

Project

Project Coyote

Legal Team

Animal & Earth Advocates

Greenfire Law

Laffey, Leitner & Goode

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Exposing the Greenwashing of Bottled Water Companies :: Earth Island Institute

Exposing the Greenwashing of Bottled Water Companies

Overview

Earth Island Institute filed a lawsuit against BlueTriton Brands (formerly Nestlé Waters North America) for its false and deceptive representation as a sustainable and environmentally friendly company despites its significant and ongoing contributions to plastic pollution and its depletion of natural water resources. Earth Island filed the case in the District of Columbia Superior Court, alleging that BlueTriton is in violation of DC's Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). The CPPA is a consumer protection law that prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unconscionable business practices. If succesful, this lawsuit will prevent BlueTriton from falsely advertising its business as sustainable, among other things.

BlueTriton Brands formerly operated as Nestlé Waters North America, one of the largest plastic-producing companies in the world, and owns a variety of beverage brands including Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water (“Poland Spring”), Deer Park® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water (“Deer Park”), Ozarka® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water (“Ozark”), Ice Mountain® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water, Zephyrhills® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water (“Zephyrills”), Arrowhead® Brand Mountain Spring Water (“Arrowhead”), Pure Life® (“Pure Life”), and Splash.

Significant Developments

August 31, 2021: Press Release

Environmental Group Files Lawsuit Against BlueTriton Brands (Formerly Nestlé) for False Advertising

August 31, 2021: Case Update

Complaint filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court against BlueTriton Brands alleging claims under DC's Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

Project

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Legal Team

Richman Law & Policy 

Focus Area

Pollution and Toxics

Protecting Oceans and People from Toxic Chemical Dispersants :: Earth Island Institute

Protecting Oceans and People from Toxic Chemical Dispersants

Overview

Earth Island's ALERT Project, along with a coalition of environmental justice groups and individuals, is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compel the issuance of rules on the use of chemical agents such as Corexit to clean up oil spills. Instead of mitigating environmental harm, Corexit dispersants have proven to be more toxic to humans and the environment than the oil alone. The use of dispersants like Corexit is an oil spill response method outlined in a set of federal regulations called the National Contingency Plan, which governs our nation’s oil and chemical pollution emergency responses. The Clean Water Act directs EPA to periodically review the Plan and update it to account for new information and new technology. But the EPA has not updated the plan since 1994, and that update did not even incorporate lessons learned from the long-term ecosystem studies following the Exxon Valdez disaster that occurred 30 years ago on March 24, 1989 — much less the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In response to public pressure from Dr. Riki Ott, ALERT's project director, and other plaintiffs involved in the filing, the EPA finally initiated a rulemaking proceeding and invited public comment on the use of Corexit in oil spill response actions. By the time the rulemaking comment period closed in April 2015, the agency had received over 81,000 responses, the majority of which called for reducing the use of chemical dispersants while decreasing their toxicity and increasing their efficacy. Since that time, the EPA has been silent on the issue.

The EPA’s failure to conclude the process to issue updated regulations violates the agency’s administrative obligations under the law and puts at risk the 133 million or so Americans who live near the coasts, making up 39 percent of the U.S. population, and the millions more who live near lakes, rivers, or along oil pipeline corridors and who are in harm’s way of the next “big one.”

A fact sheet on Corexit is available here.

Significant Developments

August 9, 2021: Press Release

Court Orders EPA to Address Use of Oil Dispersants on Offshore Spills

August 9, 2021: Case Update

Judge grants plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and orders EPA to update it plan for offshore oil spills.

April 20, 2021: Case Update

Plaintiffs file a motion for summary judgment asking the court to compel EPA to update its 25-year-old plan for oil spill response.

June 26, 2020: In the News - Alaska Native News

Judge's ruling on EPA chemical dispersants lawsuit impacts Alaska

June 3, 2020: In the News - Times-Picayune/NOLA.com

'Game-changer' ruling could restrict chemical dispersants on next big oil spill

June 3, 2020: Press Release

Judge: EPA Must Update 26-Year-Old Plan for Offshore Oil Spills

June 2, 2020: Case Update

Judge denies government's motion to dismiss Clean Water Act claim, and denies American Petroleum Institute's motion to intervene.

January 30, 2020: In the News - Drilled News

Activists Sue Trump Administration to Update Rules for Oil Spill Dispersants

January 30, 2020: In the News - Earther

EPA Is Getting Sued Over the Toxic Chemicals Used to Clean Up Oil Spills

January 30, 2020: In the News - Associated Press

Lawsuit: EPA Has Dragged Feet on Oil Spill Dispersant Rules

January 30, 2020: Case Update

Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to compel EPA to issue rules restricting use of chemical agents such as Corexit to clean up oil spills.  

March 26, 2019: In the News - The Washington Post

Chemical that EPA allows to help clean up oil spills sickens people and fish, lawsuit claims

March 26, 2019: In the News - The Guardian

Thirty years after Exxon Valdez, the response to oil spills is still all wrong

March 25, 2019: Blog Post - Legal Planet

Coastal Communities Demand EPA Update Decades-Old Spill Regulations

March 25, 2019: In the News - Alaska Native News

Environmental Advocates Announce Lawsuit Over EPA's Dangerously Outdated Response Plan for Oil Spills

March 25, 2019: Case Update 

Notice of Intent to Sue sent to EPA for its failure under the Clean Water Act to update the National Contingency Plan with respect to the use of chemical dispersants during oil spill response actions.

Project

ALERT Project

Legal Team

Claudia Polsky, attorney
Natasha Geiling, Camila Gonzalez, and Jina Kim, student clinicians
Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic

Kristen Monsell, attorney, Center for Biological Diversity

Focus Area

Pollution and Toxics

Establishing a Right to Wilderness :: Earth Island Institute

Establishing a Right to Wilderness

Overview

Seeding Sovereignty joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund and several individual plaintiffs in a historic lawsuit to recognize a constitutional right to “wilderness” as a component of substantive due process. Wilderness is a prerequisite to American citizens’ ability to exercise other constitutional rights, specifically the right to privacy, free association, and autonomy, and therefore the federal government has a constitutional obligation to ensure that wilderness exists and that citizens have safe access to it. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government has failed to protect Americans’ right to wilderness by failing to mitigate the impacts of climate change by refusing to reign in carbon-intensive practices on federal lands, such as fossil fuel extraction, animal agriculture, and deforestation, which destroy wilderness in their own right and significantly contribute to climate change, causing the eventual decimation of wilderness through a degraded and unsustainable atmosphere and climate.

Significant Developments

June 29, 2021: Press Release

Dozens of Diverse Public Interest Groups and Public Figures File Amicus Brief Urging Court to Hear Climate Change Lawsuit

June 28, 2021: Case Update

Amicus brief filed in support of plaintiffs' lawsuit.

June 21, 2021: Case Update

Plaintiffs file opening appeal brief with United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

July 31, 2019: Case Update

The District Court grants the government's motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs intend to appeal.

February 14, 2019: Case Update

First Amended Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon.

October 22, 2018: In the News - The Washington Times

Outdoor lovers sue US government over climate change

October 22, 2018: Case Update

Historic lawsuit to protect Americans' right to be let alone and compel federal government action on climate change is filed in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. 

Project

Seeding Sovereignty

Attorneys

Jessica L. Blome, Greenfire Law, PC

Carter Dillard, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Focus Area

Energy and Climate

Ending Coke's Greenwashing :: Earth Island Institute

Ending Coke's Greenwashing

Image by Emilian Robert Vicol

Overview

Earth Island Institute filed a lawsuit against the Coca-Cola Company, the American multinational beverage corporation, for its false and deceptive portrayal as a sustainable and environmentally friendly company while in reality generating more plastic pollution than any other company in the world. Earth Island Institute filed the case in the District of Columbia Superior Court, alleging that Coca-Cola is in violation of the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). The CPPA is a consumer protection law that prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unconscionable business practices. The statute specifically provides that a public-interest organization, like Earth Island, may bring an action on behalf of consumers and the general public for relief from the unlawful conduct directed at consumers. If successful, this lawsuit will prevent Coca-Cola from falsely advertising its business as sustainable, among other things.

Significant Developments

June 25, 2021: In the News - San Francisco Chronicle

Bay Area group sues Coca-Cola over plastic pollution 'greenwashing'

June 8, 2021: Press Release

Environmental Group Files Lawsuit Against Coca-Cola for False Advertising

June 8, 2021: Case Update

Complaint filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court against Coca-Cola alleging claims under DC's Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

Project

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Legal Team

Richman Law & Policy

Focus Area

Pollution and Toxics

Taking on Big Plastic :: Earth Island Institute

Taking on Big Plastic

Bill McDonald/ Algalita Foundation

Overview

Earth Island Institute filed the first major lawsuit of its kind against Crystal Geyser Water Company, The Clorox Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsico, Inc., Nestlé USA, Inc., Mars, Incorporated, Danone North America, Mondelez Global LLC, Colgate-Palmolive Company, and The Procter & Gamble Company for polluting our waterways, coasts, and oceans with millions of tons of plastic packaging. The lawsuit was filed in California State Superior Court in the County of San Mateo alleging violations of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, public nuisance, breach of express warranty, defective product liability, negligence, and failure to warn of the harms caused by their plastic packaging. Through this lawsuit, Earth Island is seeking, among other things, to recover the significant resources it expends to prevent and mitigate the effects of plastic pollution on humans, wildlife, oceans, and waterways in California, where the impacts are particularly acute.

Significant Developments

March 20, 2021: In the News

California Green Group Trying to Make Big Plastic Pay for Scourge of Pollution

February 23, 2021: Press Release

Environmental Group Wins Key Step in Battle Against Big Plastic

February 23, 2021: Case Update

Federal district court grants Earth Island's motion to remand case back to California state court

August 5, 2020: In the News

Once Case At A Time, Lawyers Fight To Save The Planet

May 6, 2020: Press Release

Earth Island Institute argues for keeping plastic pollution case in California state court

March 6, 2020: In the News

Disposable plastic is bad for the environment, but is it illegal? Coca-Cola and Pepsi are about to find out

March 1, 2020: In the News

Coke and Pepsi Are Getting Sued for Lying about Recycling

February 26, 2020: In the News

Lawsuit in California targets plastics pollution from Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other companies

February 26, 2020: In the News

Earth Island Sues 10 Companies, Including Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle, Over Plastic Use

February 26, 2020: In the News

Bay Area group sues Coke, Pepsi, other giants over plastic pollution ‘poisoning everything’

February 26, 2020: Press Release

Earth Island Institute Takes on Big Plastic

February 26, 2020: Case Update

Complaint filed in California State Superior Court in the County of San Mateo against major food, beverage, and consumer goods companies alleging claims under tort and the California Consumer Remedies Act

Projects

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Shark Stewards

International Marine Mammal Project

1000 Fountains

Legal Team

Joe Cotchett, Mark Molumphy, & Noorjahan Rahman

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy

Focus Area

Pollution and Toxics

Protecting Raptors, and Other Wildlife, from Lethal Rodenticides :: Earth Island Institute

Protecting Raptors, and Other Wildlife, from Lethal Rodenticides

photo by Pamela Dimeler

Overview

Raptors Are The Solution filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Pesticide Regulation pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act for failing to adequately analyze the impacts of anticoagulant rat poisons on the state’s raptors and other wildlife. Specifically, Raptors Are The Solution challenges the Department's renewal of the registrations for various rodenticides without considering the magnitude of their impacts, including mortality, sublethal impacts, and genetic impacts.

Significant Developments

June 15, 2020: In the News - The San Luis Obispo Tribune

Rat poison kills great horned owl, sickens baby bird at SLO County nature preserve

September 27, 2018: In the News - North Coast Journal of Politics, People, and Art

Owls of the Bell Tower: Learning from the loss of Ferndale's feathered family

June 13, 2018: Case Update

Raptors Are The Solution files petition for writ of mandate against the California Department of Pesticide Regulation in the Superior Court of the State of California In and For the County of Alameda.

Project

Raptors Are The Solution

Attorneys

Michael W. Graf, Michael W. Graf Law Offices

Deborah Sivas, Stanford Law School Environmental Law Clinic

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Seeking the Truth About Offshore Drilling :: Earth Island Institute

Seeking the Truth About Offshore Drilling

Overview

On January 8, 2019, the International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) sued the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Interior over its failure to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request related to its offshore drilling plans. In January 2018, Interior Secretary Zinke and the Trump Administration announced its proposal to lease 90% of the US offshore area for oil and gas drilling, threatening massive oil spills, chronic oil contamination, dumping of toxic drilling muds, and loud noise from air gun blasting of sediments and oil drilling operations. Despite minimal public outreach in the states affected by offshore drilling and overwhelming public opposition, the Administration moved forward with its proposal. IMMP submitted a FOIA  request in March 2018 in order to shed light on which third parties the Secretary met with prior to its offshore drilling decision, how Interior developed its public outreach plan, and whether Interior actually took into consideration comments received from the public. Prior to filing our complaint, the Office of the Secretary had not provided a single document.

Significant Developments

September 30, 2019: Case Update

The Office of the Secretary at the Department of Interior releases its fifth set of documents in response to our FOIA request.

August 30, 2019: Case Update

The Office of the Secretary at the Department of Interior releases its fourth set of documents in response to our FOIA request.

July 30, 2019: Case Update

The Office of the Secretary at the Department of Interior releases its third set of documents in response to our FOIA request.

June 25, 2019: Case Update

The Office of the Secretary at the Department of Interior releases its second set of documents in response to our FOIA request.

May 31, 2019: Case Update

The Office of the Secretary at the Department of Interior releases its first set of documents in response to our FOIA request.

January 9, 2019: Blog Post - International Marine Mammal Project

January 8, 2019: Case Update

Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia over Interior's failure to respond to IMMP's FOIA request.

Project

International Marine Mammal Project

Attorneys

Hope Babcock & Ariel Nelson, Institute for Public Representation, Georgetown University Law Center

Focus Area

Ocean and Water

Challenging the Navy's Treatment of Wild Dolphins :: Earth Island Institute

Challenging the Navy's Treatment of Wild Dolphins

Overview

International Marine Mammal Project joined a coalition of environmental and animal rights groups in an action against the Navy regarding its plan to "deploy" Atlantic bottlenose dolphins at the Bangor submarine base. Specifically, the plaintiffs challenged the Navy's failure to conduct an environmental analysis for its controversial plan to take dolphins from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the cold waters off Washington for military use. The Court agreed with the plaintiffs about the necessity of an environmental analysis. As a result, the Navy abandoned its plan and implemented a policy that prohibited the movement of dolphins between environments with radically different water temperatures. 

Significant Developments

November 2, 1989: Case Update

Court denies defendants' motion to dismiss.

Project

International Marine Mammal Project

Attorney

John Costo

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Protecting California's black-backed woodpecker :: Earth Island Institute

Protecting California's black-backed woodpecker

photo by Alison Sheehey of Sequoia Forest Keeper

This lawsuit was filed 1/30/12 on behalf of EII and CBD in State Court in Alameda County. In 12/2011, in response to a Petition filed by JMP and CBD to list the Black-backed Woodpecker as Threatened under the California ESA, the Commission listed the species as a Candidate species for ultimate listing under CESA. Shortly thereafter, the Commission issued an emergency regulation which eliminated all projects which would potentially afect habitat for this species from having to apply for incidental take permit prior to proceeding with logging on private lands. This suit alleges that under CEQA preparation of an EIR was required prior to approving such an exemption. Suit settled.

Project

John Muir Project

Attorneys

Chatten-Brown and Carstens LLP

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Holding Plastic Producers Accountable for Their Water Pollution :: Earth Island Institute

Holding Plastic Producers Accountable for Their Water Pollution

Overview

Plastic Pollution Coalition filed a series of Clean Water Act citizen suits against plastic manufacturers for discharges to waterways that contained plastic and other pollutants. As a result of these lawsuits, Plastic Pollution Coalition obtained settlements to remediate plastic pollution and to mitigate its impacts in the San Francisco Bay watershed.

Significant Developments

March 27, 2015: In the News - The Guardian

It's taken seven years, but California is finally cleaning up microbead pollution: Nonprofits are using the state's new stormater requirements to sue plastic manufacturers for polluting waterways - and they are winning

Project

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Attorneys

Rachel Doughty, Greenfire Law PC

Focus Area

Pollution and Toxics

Enforcing the Clean Water Act at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station :: Earth Island Institute

Enforcing the Clean Water Act at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Overview

Earth Island Institute, along with two individual plaintiffs, sued Southern California Edison over Clean Water Act violations at its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Specifically, both the water intake from and discharges to the Pacific Ocean had substantial adverse ecological and environmental effects on the marine ecosystem. The parties ultimately arrived at a settlement that provided numerous environmental and educational benefits. First, Southern California Edison paid $7.5 million for the acquisition and restoration of wetlands in the San Dieguito lagoon and river valley. Second, Southern California Edison paid $2 million to the San Diego State University Foundation and the Pacific Estuary Research Laboratory to fund wetlands restoration and research. Third, Southern California Edison paid $5.5 million to an undertaking with Earth Island Institute to develop a marine educational program at Redondo Beach, California, for increasing public awareness of and appreciation for the marine environment. Subsequent to court approval of the settlement, the parties sought an amendment to the agreement in light of Southern California Edison's failure to complete the wetland restoration work in the San Dieguito lagoon area. Under the revised agreement, Southern California Edison allocated the bulk of the $7.5 million, plus accrued interest, towards two Wetland Restoration Trust Funds. Earth Island Institute and another organization each administered one fund for the restoration of crucial wetlands throughout Southern California.

Significant Developments

August 17, 2001: Case Update

Court enters amended consent decree after Southern California Edison's failure to complete the wetland restoration work in the San Dieguito lagoon area.

February 7, 2000: Case Update

Court awards additional attorney fees of $88,068 to plaintiffs for consent decree compliance monitoring.

November 19, 1993: Case Update

Court awards attorney fees of $1,408,594.94 to plaintiffs.

June 14: 1993: Case Update

Court approval of settlement with plaintiffs.

November 8, 1990: Case Update

Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California against Southern California Edison for violations of the Clean Water Act at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Generating Station.

Attorneys

Charles Crandall, Milberg Weiss LLP

Josh Floum, Legal Strategies Group

Focus Area

Ocean and Water

Keeping Whales Wild :: Earth Island Institute

Keeping Whales Wild

Overview

The International Marine Mammal Project and several other organizations intervened in support of the National Marine Fishery Service in a challenge over its denial of a permit to Georgia Aquarium. Specifically, Georgia aquarium sought a permit to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia despite the negative impacts of removing these whales from the wild. The National Marine Fishery Service and the intervening plaintiffs prevailed, and Georgia Aquarium was denied a permit to hold these whales in captivity.

Significant Developments

September 28, 2015: Case Update

Court affirms denial of beluga whale import permit.

August 14, 2015: In the News - Reuters

Georgia court weighs destiny of 18 captured beluga whales.

April 18, 2014: Case Update

Court grants motion to intervene.

January 2, 2014: Case Update

International Marine Mammal Project and several other organizations moved to intervene in Georgia Aquarium, Inc. v. Pritzker filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Project

International Marine Mammal Project

Attorneys

Donald Stack, Stack & Associates P.C.

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Helping Youth Fight for a Stable Climate :: Earth Island Institute

Helping Youth Fight for a Stable Climate

Overview

Kids vs. Global Warming joined five individual teenagers and another organization in the landmark federal climate lawsuit premised on the public trust doctrine. The lawsuit sought to require the federal government to immediately implement steps to reduce greenhouse gases in order to avoid warming beyond two degrees Celcius, as proscribed by Dr. James Hansen and other leading international climate scientists. This case, although supported by prominent groups and individuals across the country, was ultimately dismissed but did lay the foundation for the current Atmospheric Trust Litigation. 

Significant Developments

December 8, 2014: Case Update

United States Supreme Court denies plaintiffs' request.

October 3, 2014: Case Update

Plaintiffs file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.

June 5, 2014: Case Update

The Court of Appeals affirms the district court decision.

October 22, 2013: Case Update

Plaintiffs file brief in support of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia of the district court's decision.

May 31, 2012: Case Update

Court grants the federal government defedants' and fossil fuel intervenors' motion to dismiss.

April 2, 2012: In the News - Huffington Post

Public trust doctrine lawsuit asks for protection of atmosphere as a public resource.

December 9, 2011: In the News - Grist

The young and the restless: Kids sue government over climate change.

December 7, 2011: Case Update

22 law professors file an amicus brief in support of youth and the public trust doctrine.

December 7, 2011: Case Update

Case is transferred to D.C. because of its national significance and for the convenience of the federal government.

November 3, 2011: In the News - Outside Magazine

Why is 17-year-old Alec Loorz suing the government over global warming?

September 28, 2011: Case Update

Plaintiffs file for a preliminary injunction to compel immediate government action on climate change.

July 27, 2011: Case Update

Plaintiffs file an amended complaint.

May 5, 2011: In the News - The Guardian

Why one 16-year-old is suing the US government over climate change.

May 4, 2011: Case Update

Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of Interior, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Commerce, the United States Department of Energy, and the United States Department of Defense.

Project

Kids vs. Global Warming

Attorneys

Philip L. Gregory, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP

Julia Olson, Wild Earth Advocates

Focus Area

Energy and Climate

Ending Wildlife Killing Contests :: Earth Island Institute

Ending Wildlife Killing Contests

Overview

Project Coyote is joining forces with other organizations to put an end to wildlife killing contests, which result in the cruel and senseless killing each year of thousands of coyotes, foxes, bobcats, prairie dogs, crows, and wolves. These “tournaments,” or “derbies,” are held throughout the United States and often occur on public lands. Children as young as ten are encouraged to participate, and social media pages show them posing with assault rifles beside the bodies of the animals they killed. These contests send a chilling message that killing is fun, wild animals are disposable, and life is cheap. The contests serve no ecological purpose and are instead at odds with all principles of conservation biology and ecosystem-based management. As such, Project Coyote and its partners are turning to the courts as part of their broader efforts to end these killing contests.

Significant Developments

Idaho Wildlife Killing Derby

On November 13, 2014, Project Coyote and other wildlife conservation organizations filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho against the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management over its issuance of a Special Recreation Permit to a group called Idaho for Wildlife. The five-year permit provides that Idaho for Wildlife may conduct an annual three-day hunting contest targeting predators on 3.1 million acres of federal land in Eastern Idaho. The permit further allows for up to 500 participants in the derby each yaer. Cash and prizes will be awarded for the most coyotes and wolves and other predators that are killed. On August 20, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case as moot based on the lack of pending permit applications for future killing contests. Attorneys at the Center for Biological Diversity represented Project Coyote in this matter.

Oregon Coyote Hunting Contest

In January 2014, Project Coyote joined with other animal-rights activists in a lawsuit against Duane Freilino, d/b/a Shooters Services Unlimited and JMK Farms in an effort to end the annual JMK Coyote Hunting Contest in Crane, Harney County, Oregon. The contest, organized by Freilino, required hunters to "buy in" to the contest and top teams won cash prizes totaling more than $10,000. The lawsuit alleged that the killing contest and associated betting competition constituted a gambling enterprise, which is illegal and deemed a public nuisance in the state of Oregon. The case settled in July 2014 with an agreement from Freilino to never host another hunting contest in Oregon and to pay attorneys' fees. Attorneys at the Animal Legal Defense Fund represented Project Coyote in this matter.

Project

Project Coyote

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Reforming Wildlife Management Practices :: Earth Island Institute

Reforming Wildlife Management Practices

photo by Wally Nussbaumer for ProjectCoyote.org

Overview

Project Coyote promotes compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy. When necessary, Project Coyote pursues judicial remedies to obtain wildlife management reforms within government agencies. This includes, among other things, requiring adequate environmental analysis of wildlife management practices and strong enforcement of the Endangered Species Act for imperiled predators.

Significant Developments

Mendocino County Wildlife Services Contract

On February 3, 2020, Project Coyote and Mendocino Nonlethal Wildlife Alliance filed a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act against Mendocino County over its renewal of a contract with the United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services for lethal control of predators and "nuisance" wildlife. Project Coyote contends that these contracts result in the killing of hundreds of animals annually throughout the county without adequate environmental review of the impacts. Donald L. Lipmansom is representing Project Coyote in this matter.

"Wildlife Damage Management" in Sacramento District

On August 27, 2019, Project Coyote joined several organizations in a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture over its failure to update its National Environmental Policy Act analysis for the "Wildlife Damage Management" program in the Sacramento District. Despite the outdated analysis, the agency continues to move forward with these programs across California, which resulted in the killing of over 30,000 native animals in California in 2017. The parties reached a settlement in April 2020. Cristina Stella of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Collette Adkins of Center for Biological Diversity are represented Project Coyote in this matter.

Shasta County Wildlife Services Contracts

Every year, Shasta County contracts with the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services program for the lethal control of predators and other wildlife it considers to be a nuisance. These contracts result in the killing of thousands of animals annually. On June 6, 2018, Project Coyote joined several other organizations in submitting a letter to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors that details how these contracts are a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, the California Endangered Species Act, the public trust doctrine, and other laws. As a result of this notice letter, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors terminated its contract with Wildlife Services. Christina Stella of Animal Legal Defense Fund represented Project Coyote in this matter.

"Wildlife Damage Management" in California's North District

On June 21, 2017, Project Coyote joined several organizations in a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture over its failure to update its National Environmental Policy Act analysis for the "Wildlife Damage Management" program in California's North District. Despite killing millions of animals annually, Wildlife Services continued to support its program with wildlife management science from the 1980s and earlier. As a result of this lawsuit, Wildlife Services entered into a settlement agreement that, among other things, created an enforceable timeline for completion of a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision and required the implementation of various best practices for wildlife management in the North District. Collette Adkins and Jennifer Loda of the Center for Biological Diversity represented Project Coyote in this matter.

Monterey County Wildlife Services Contracts

Monterey County enters into annual contracts with wildlife trappers employed by United States Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program for the lethal control of predators and other wildlife it considers to be a nuisance. Despite the fact that these contracts result in the killing of thousands of animals annually, the County enters into these contracts without any environmental review. On June 1, 2016, Project Coyote joined several other organizations in a lawsuit against Monterey County for violations of the California Environmental Quality Act as a resultof the exectution of the lethal predator control program. On August 9, 2017, the Court found in favor of the plaintiffs and held that Monterey County violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to analyze environmental and ecological impacts prior to renewal of the contract with Wildlife Services. Attorneys from Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati represented Project Coyote in this matter.

In The News - Court rules against Monterey County over predator control program

Project

Project Coyote

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Challenging Destructive Logging Practices on Federal Land :: Earth Island Institute

Challenging Destructive Logging Practices on Federal Land

photo by John Muir Project

Overview

photo of someone working in a forest
Naturally regenerating snag forest habitat that is prime foraging habitat for the endangered Pacific fisher and is being threatened by post-fire logging on the Stanislaus National Forest. (Rim Fire photo by Chad Hanson, John Muir Project.)

The John Muir Project goes to court to enforce federal environmental laws in National Forests, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), in order to ensure that federal public forestlands are managed to provide optimal ecological conditions to support and restore the full complement of native biodiversity in these forest ecosystems, which have been severely degraded and damaged by decades of commercial logging and suppression of wildland fires.

Significant Developments

Protecting the Pacific Fisher from Logging in Its Habitat

On March 26, 2021, John Muir Project, along with Unite the Parks and Sequoia Forestkeeper, filed a lawsuit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Forest Service over the decision to allow logging in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range, which constitutes habitat for the endangered Pacific fisher. The lawsuit alleges violations of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. On April 20, 2021, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the Forest Service from moving forward with logging in Summer 2021. Rene M. Voss is representing John Muir Project in this case.

Logging of Snag Forest Habitat in the Stanislaus National Forest

On September 16, 2019, John Muir Project, Seqoia Forestkeeper, Greenpeace, and Dr. James Hansen filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and the United States Forest Service challenging HUD's approval of disaster relief funds for clearcut logging in newly regenerated forestland, which serves as important wildlife habitat, and an associated biomass power plant. The lawsuit alleges violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, Administrative Procedures Act, HUD regulations, and the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. Meriel L. Darzen of Crag Law Center and Daniel Galpern are representing John Muir Project in this case.

Commercial Logging in the Cuddy Valley Community

On July 15, 2019, John Muir Project, Mountain Communities for Fire Safety, and Lost Padres Forestwatch filed a lawsuit against the United States Forest Service challenging a commercial logging project that would cut medium to large trees and eliminate native shrubs in the Cuddy Valley Community. The lawsuit alleges violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act. Rene M. Voss is representing John Muir Project in this case, and is currently on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Logging in California Condor Habitat

On July 10, 2019, John Muir Project, Los Padres Forestwatch, and Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the United States Forest Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service over its proposal to allow logging in a roadless area that contains as many as 50 California condor roosting sites. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges improper use of a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act and a violation of the Endangered Species Act. Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity is representing John Muir Project in this case.

Tree Removal in Inyo National Forest

On July 9, 2019, John Muir Project and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the United States Forest Service alleging various claims under the Administrative Procedures Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The challenge relates to the agency's proposal to remove mostly live trees on over 9,000 acres in the Inyo National Forest, near Mammoth Lakes, California. Tom Buchele of EarthRise Law Center and Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity are representing John Muir Project in this case.

Bull Run Project

On March 7, 2018, John Muir Project and Sequioa Forestkeeper filed a lawsuit against the United States Forest Service challenging two tree removal projects, one in Sequoia National Forest (Bull Run project) and the other in the Giant Sequoia National Monument (Spear Creek project). In both instances, the Forest Service bypassed environmental review requirements by relying on the use of categorical exclusions, despite the existence of extraordinary circumstances which prevent the use of categorical exclusions. This case is currently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Rene P. Voss and Matt Kenna are representing John Muir Project in this case.

photo credit Alison Sheehey of Sequoia Forest Keeper

Timber Sales in Sequoia and Sierra National Forests

On December 12, 2016, John Muir Project and Sequioa Forestkeeper filed a lawsuit against the United States Forest Service over its failure to consider significant new circumstances and information with respect to three proposed timber sales. Additionally, the Forest Service failed to consider the combined potential of these projects to adversely affect Pacific fisher, California spotted owl, and northern goshawk habitat. As a result of this legal challenge, the Forest Service prepared additional environmental analysis of the project. Rene P. Voss and Matt Kenna represented John Muir Project in this case.

Sunny South Logging Project in Tahoe National Forest

On September 29, 2016, John Muir Project and Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the United States Forest Service over its proposed green tree timber sale in California Spotted Owl habitat. Specifically, they challenged the use of a categorical exclusion to avoid environmental analysis of this project, which allowed for the logging of live and dead trees across 2,700 acres of Tahoe National Forest. Justin Augustine of Center for Biological Diversity and Rene P. Ross represented John Muir Project in this matter.

French Fire Project in Sierra National Forest

On August 31, 2015, John Muir Project and Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California challenging the environmental analysis conducted by the United States Forest Service for a logging project in the French Fire area of Sierra National Forest. Specifically, the lawsuit challenged the failure to provide for notice and comment on the project's impacts, failure to take a "hard look" at the impacts in the roadless areas, and failure to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. As a result of this challenge, the court enjoined the Forest Service from conducting further logging in the roadless areas unless and until it provided for notice and comment, and responded to those comments. Attorneys from the Center for Biological Diversity represented John Muir Project in this matter.

Logging in Black-Backed Woodpecker Habitat in Lassen National Forest

On July 30, 2015, John Muir Project joined Center for Biological Diversity in seeking an injunction against the United States Forest Service overs its plan to allow logging on about 14,000 acres in Lassen National Forest. The proposed logging threatened burned forest habitat, which is critical habitat for the Black-backed Woodpecker. Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity and Sean Malone represented John Muir Project in this matter.

Aspen Project in Sierra National Forest

In July 2014, John Muir Project joined Center for Biological Diversity in seeking an injunction against the United States Forest Service over its plan to allow logging on almost two thousand acres in Sierra National Forest. The area of the proposed logging was important habitat for the California spotted owl, the Pacific fisher, and the black-backed woodpecker. Rachel Fazio, associate director and staff attorney of the John Muir Project, and Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity represented John Muir Project in this matter.

Big Hope Project in Tahoe National Forest

On July 22, 2014, John Muir Project joined Center for Biological Diversity in seeking an injunction against the United States Forest service over its plan to allow logging on tens of thousands of acres in Tahoe National Forest. The proposed logging threatened burned forest habitat, which is critical habitat of the black-backed woodpecker. Rachel Fazio, associate director and staff attorney of the John Muir Project, and Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity represented John Muir Project in this matter.

Rim Fire Recovery Project

On September 4, 2014, John Muir Project joined two other organizations in seeking an injunction against the United States Forest Service over its plan to allow logging in 52 square miles of the Stanislaus National Forest. The proposed logging threatened critical California spotted owl habitat and sought to prevent logging on 40 percent of the area in order to create a buffer between nests and roosting sites and logging operations. Rachel Fazio, associate director and staff attorney of the John Muir Project, and Justin Augustine of the Center for Biological Diversity represented John Muir Project in this matter.

Lassen National Forest Timber Sale

On August 11, 2008, John Muir Project filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California challenging the scientific integrity and accuracy of the Environmental Assessment conducted by the United States Forest Service for a timber sale in the Champs area of Lassen National Forest. As a result of this challenge, the court enjoined the Forest Service from moving forward with the timber sale contracts until completion of an adequate and sufficient environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. Rene P. Voss and Rachel Fazio, associate director and staff attorney of the John Muir Project, represented John Muir Project in this matter.

Project

John Muir Project

Focus Area

Conservation

Seeking Improved Conditions for Organic Livestock and Poultry :: Earth Island Institute

Seeking Improved Conditions for Organic Livestock and Poultry

photo by Amy Wong, Cultivate Oregon

Overview

Cultivate Oregon joined several other organizations as co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture over its withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practice Rule. The rule would have strengthened the regulations for the care and well-being of animals on organic farms. Most notably, it would have established clear minimum spacing requirements and specified the quality of outdoor space that must be provided for organic poultry. Co-plaintiffs seek immediate implementation of the final rule and its improved livestock care standards.

Significant Developments

May 6, 2019: Press Release

Defenders of organic integrity win victory for transparency and open government.

May 6, 2019: Case Update

Court grants plantiffs' motion to compel USDA to complete the record with internal documents that were initially withheld.

August 21, 2018: Case Update

Court upholds plaintiffs' right to challenge withdrawal of organic animal standards.

March 22, 2018: In the News - The Hill

Trump Administration sued for withdrawing welfare rules for animals certified "organic"

March 21, 2018: Case Update

Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the United States Department of Agriculture.

Project

Cultivate Oregon

Attorneys

George Kimbrell & Amy Van Saun, Center for Food Safety

Focus Area

Agriculture

Requiring the Truth from SeaWorld :: Earth Island Institute

Requiring the Truth from SeaWorld

photo by Mark J. Palmer

Overview

Anderson et al vs. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Inc., in which International Marine Mammal Project serves an advisory role, challenges SeaWorld’s misleading and false advertising about the health and welfare of their captive orcas. This lawsuit was originally filed in the Superior Court of the State of California for the City and County of San Francisco in April 2015. SeaWorld removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in May 2015. SeaWorld has made numerous attempts to dispose of this lawsuit but the plaintiffs have repeatedly prevailed. The first phase of trial is now set for March 9, 2020. Stay tuned!

Significant Developments

August 30, 2019: Case Update

Court denies SeaWorld's motion for judgment on the pleadings but grants SeaWorld's motion for a bifurcated trial.

July 9, 2019: Case Update

Trial date is delayed to April 27, 2020.

June 11, 2018: Case Update

Trial is set for October 21, 2019.

June 6, 2018: Press Release 

Plaintiffs seek early trial date to reveal the truth about SeaWorld's captive orcas.

March 7, 2018: Press Release

Court denies SeaWorld's fourth attempt to terminate class action lawsuit.

February 27, 2018: In the News - The Recorder

Judge nixes SeaWorld's bid for sanctions against Covington & Burling in Killer Whale Case.

February 27, 2018: Case Update

Court denies SeaWorld's motion for sanctions finding that plaintiffs have sufficient basis for their claims.

February 20, 2018: Case Update 

Court denies the bulk of SeaWorld's motion for summary judgment and finds that plaintiffs may proceed with most claims in their third amended complaint.

January 30, 2017: Case Update

Court denies SeaWorld's motion to dismiss portions of plaintiffs' third amended complaint.

November 22, 2016: Case Update

Plaintiffs file third amended complaint.

November 7, 2016: Case Update

Court grants in part, and denies in part SeaWorld's motion to dismiss.

August 22, 2016: Case Update

Plaintiffs file second amended complaint.

August 1, 2016: Case Update

Court grants in part and denies in part SeaWorld's motion to dismiss.

May 14, 2015: Case Update

Case removed to United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

May 11, 2015: Case Update

Plaintiffs file first amended complaint.

April 14, 2015: In the News - The Guardian

Latest SeaWorld lawsuit demands park end "false statements" on orca welfare.

April 13, 2015: Case Update

Complaint filed in Superior Court of the State of California for the City and County of San Francisco

Project

International Marine Mammal Project

Attorneys

Christine Haskett, Covington & Burling LLP

Focus Area

Animal Welfare

Ensuring the Integrity of Sustainable Seafood Labels :: Earth Island Institute

Ensuring the Integrity of Sustainable Seafood Labels

photo credit National Marine Fisheries Service

Overview

For decades, dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean were intentionally chased and netted by tuna fishermen to catch the tuna that swim beneath dolphin schools. Mexican, Venezuelan, and Colombian tuna fleets continue to chase, net, and drown thousands of dolphins annually. Mexico is fighting to overturn the Dolphin Safe tuna label, going to the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Congress to change U.S. laws so they can falsely label their tuna—stained by the blood of dolphins—as Dolphin Safe. And, to the surprise of many, the Marine Stewardship Council falsely certified Mexican dolphin-deadly fisheries as “sustainable". Earth Island Institute is working to address each of these issues, as well as bycatch of non-target species in tuna nets and in stopping fishermen from killing dolphins for shark bait. 

This lawsuit will challenge Marine Stewardship Council for violations of the Lanham Act and potentially the Dolphin Protection and Information Act for the granting of a misleading and scientifically unsupportable ecolabel to the Mexican tuna industry for use on labels to be used in the US market. IMMP seeks to revoke the MSC certification of the Mexican tuna fishing industry's fishery and prohibit any such product from being sold in the US with a "sustainability" logo.

Significant Updates

[insert updates]

Project

International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP)

Attorneys

Michael Cohen & Sheppard Mullin

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Shedding Light on the Captive Cetacean Industry :: Earth Island Institute

Shedding Light on the Captive Cetacean Industry

photo by Mark J. Palmer

Overview

The International Marine Mammal Project joined several organizations and individual scientists in a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) over the agency's position that it does not have the lawful authority to enforce permit provisions requiring the submission of necropsy reports and veterinary records of the deceased orcas Tilikum, Kasatka, and Kyara.Tilikum and Kasatka, two orcas featured in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, and Tilikum’s granddaughter, Kyara, all died in 2017 of reported lung infections. The permits that were issued to import Tilikum and Kasatka specify that SeaWorld must submit these records to the NMFS upon the orcas' deaths—a stipulation that, in Tilikum's case, also applies to his progeny, including Kyara. The NMFS did not obtain these records and now claim, without legal justification, that the1994 amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act voided those provisions. As a result of the agency's position, the public is denied access to vital information about the impacts of captivity on orcas, as well as data that can inform the rescue and treatment of injured or ill marine mammals in the wild. 

Significant Developments

May 22, 2020: Case Update

Earth Island and co-plaintiffs file notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit of the district court's decision granting the federal defendants' motion to dismiss.

November 29, 2018: In the News - The San Diego Tribune

Why did SeaWorld killer whales die? Animal acitivists sue for release of necropsy reports

November 28, 2018: In the News - Orlando Sentinel 

Animal activities sue for SeaWorld necropsy reports while Orlando company faces other lawsuits

November 27, 2018: In the News - Orlando Weekly

Animal advocates sue federal agency over necropsy reports for dead SeaWorld orcas

November 27, 2018: Blog Post - International Marine Mammal Project

Trump Administration Sued Over SeaWorld Necropsy Reports for Captive Orcas

November 27, 2018: Case Update

Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia over NMFS' failure to enforce certain permit provisions following the deaths of Tilikum, Kasatka, and Kyara.

Project

International Marine Mammal Project 

Attorneys

Don Baur, Perkins Coie

Eric Glitzenstein, Meyer Glitzenstein

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Upholding Renewable Energy Standards in Missouri :: Earth Island Institute

Upholding Renewable Energy Standards in Missouri

Overview

Renew Missouri successfully litigated against an electric company and the Public Service Commission to enforce Missouri's Renewable Energy Standard, which was passed by ballot initiative and required that all publicly regulated utilities offer solar rebates to their customers. Despite the clear mandate of the Renewable Energy Standard, the Missouri legislature and the Public Service Commission attempted to exempt one electric company from its solar requirements. As a result of Renew Missouri's efforts, the Supreme Court of Missouri upheld the will of the voters, as expressed in the Renewable Energy Standard, to bring clean energy to Missouri.

Significant Developments

February 11, 2015: In the News 

Missouri Supreme Court rules against utility in Solar Rebate Case.

February 10, 2015: Case Update

The Supreme Court of Missouri reverses the Public Service Commission decision and finds that providing an exemption from the solar requirements is inconsistent with Missouri's Renewable Energy Standard and thus invalid.

January 27, 2014: Case Update

Renew Missouri files appeal in Supreme Court of Missouri of Public Service Commission decision.

November 26, 2013: Case Update

Missouri's Public Service Commission finds in favor of Empire District Electric Company and holds that Empire could rely on legislation that provided an exemption from solar requirements.

January 2013: Case Update

Renew Missouri files complaint in Missouri's Public Service Commission to enforce the Renewable Energy Standard against Empire District Electic Company.

Project

Renew Missouri

Attorneys

Henry B. Robertson and Kathleen G. Henry, Great Rivers Environmental Law Center

Focus Area

Energy and Climate

Save the Rim Fire Recovery from 'Salvage' Logging :: Earth Island Institute

Save the Rim Fire Recovery from 'Salvage' Logging

photo by John Muir Project

Overview

NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) lawsuit challenging logging in post-fire habitat created by the Rim Fire five years ago. John Muir Project challenged logging in these same units four years ago but most of that plan was never implemented. The logging plans are being revived but now money for the project is being channeled through CA Department of Housing and Community Development and US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The areas in question contain some of the best wildlife habitat on the Stanislaus National Forest. This year, John Muir Project found two Great gray owl nests, a California Spotted Owl territory, Black-backed and Hairy Woodpecker nests as well as dozens of other species of birds and mammal which are breeding and thriving in these snag forest patches. In addition the forest in areas that has not yet been logged is growing in vigorously, as are naive shrubs and wildflowers. Absent litigation these areas are scheduled to be cut as soon as next week (in the middle of nesting season), wildlife will be displaced or worse killed by the activities and their food source removed which could also lead to their demise. In addition, the vast majority (70 +%) of the regenerating forest (including young trees which are 5 feet tall) will be killed by a project that is being billed as “restoring” the forest.

Significant Updates

[insert updates]

Project

John Muir Projecy

Attorneys

Justin Augustine, Center for Biological Diversity

Focus Area

Environmental Protection

Protecting Dolphins from Drowning in Nets :: Earth Island Institute

Protecting Dolphins from Drowning in Nets

Overview

Earth Island has played a central role in ending the practice of setting tuna nets on dolphins by the United States tuna industry, and influencing other countries to do the same. For reasons scientists still do not completely understand, large yellowfin tuna swim underneath schools of dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP), so tuna fisherman targeted dolphins schools with speed boats and helicopters, before encircling the dolphins in purse seine tuna nets. When the nets are pulled in like a purse around the tuna, the air breathing dolphins are often injured or drowned. Between 1959 and 1976, it is estimated that more than SIX MILLION dolphins drowned in tuna nets in the ETP. In 1987, then Earth Island biologist Sam Labudde signed on as a cook on a Mexican purse seine tuna vessel, and surreptitiously filmed dolphins dying in tuna nets by the thousands. Labudde sent his footage to the U.S. Congress, which in response amended the Marine Mammal Protection Act, in an effort to further safeguard these playful, intelligent mammals.

When the U.S. fleet appeared to ignore many of the protections of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Protect took the lead in a series of successful lawsuits against the Departments of Commerce and State, requiring the industry to safeguard dolphins while catching tuna. These cases were handled pro bono by Heller, Ehrman White & McAuliffe (by, among others, current directors Josh Floum and Deborah Sivas) and later by Legal Strategies Group and Holme, Roberts and Owen (Josh Floum and current director Ariela St. Pierre). Other lawyers notably involved on behalf of the dolphins were Robert Borton, Elizabeth Gunther, Michael Charlson and Cynthia Koehler.

The parties to the lawsuits drew former Chief Judge Thelton E. Henderson of the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California, who authored several landmark animal protection decisions. On January 5, 1989, Judge Henderson ordered the entire U.S. fleet back to port and required each vessel to carry an official observer to monitor dolphin mortality.  At a later time, he ordered an end to the fishing season due to the fact that tuna operators were undercounting the number of dolphins harmed or killed during fishing sets.

Later, under the provisions of the MMPA, Judge Henderson ordered the embargo of tuna imports from certain countries which were not utilizing similar safety practices as those required of the US fleet. These embargos led to challenges in the then General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade Court in Geneva, the first trade/environment issue ever considered by that body. 

In the meantime, Earth Island, under the leadership of IMMP (Dave Phillips, Mark Berman and Mark Palmer) created the dolphin safe tuna label, and ultimately persuaded H.J. Heinz, the owners of StarKist tuna, to go dolphin safe and stop setting tuna nets on dolphins. Around the country, schoolchildren were asking their parents to stop buying dolphin deadly tuna, and ultimately all U.S. tuna suppliers followed Starkist’s lead and stopped setting nets on dolphins.

In the U.S. dolphin deaths in purse seine nets went from hundreds of thousands each year to zero! Just recently the WTO affirmed the legality of Earth Island’s dolphin safe label. 

Project

International Marine Mammal Project

Attorneys

Josh Floum & Deborah Sivas, Heller, Ehrman White & McAuliffe

Josh Floum & Ariela St. Pierre, Legal Strategies Group (now Kilpatrick Townsend)

Josh Floum & Ariela St. Pierre, Holme, Roberts and Owen

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection

Protecting Marine National Monuments :: Earth Island Institute

Protecting Marine National Monuments

photo by David Maguire

Overview

The Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument (PRI Monument) lives up to its name – it comprises a series of islands and atolls in such a remote area of the Pacific Ocean that it is hard to think of another place in the world that could be farther from a human population center. Perhaps Antarctica? Unfortunately for marine life, the 9,000-plus miles between Washington, DC and the PRI Monument do not provide it protection from the Trump administration. This case will challenge any attempt by President Trump to alter the boundaries of or designated uses in the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument. Any such action is contrary to the Antiquities Act and is an unconstitutional exercise of executive power.

Significant Updates

[insert updates]

Projects

Earth Island Advocates, International Marine Mammal Project, Shark Stewards

Attorneys

Deborah A. Sivas, Director, Environmental Law Clinic, Stanford Law School

Michael Robinson-Dorn, Director, Environmental Law Clinic, University of California-Irvine

Focus Area