Proposed Section 403, Endangered Species Act

Although the Gorton Bill was not enacted and died with the 104th Congress, we are leaving these pages online as a reminder of what was attempted and who led the charge.

The following is taken directly from the wording of the amendment proposed by Senator Gorton and his cronies. It will make your head spin, but if you bear down and read through the legal gobbledy-gook, you can see how this section in particular dooms all sorts of marine life, and marine turtles in particular.


Section 9(a) (16 U.S.C. 1538(a)) is amended--

(1) in paragraph (1), by striking `Except as provided in sections 6(g)(2) and 10 of this Act,' and inserting `Except as provided in paragraph (3) and sections 6(g)(2) and 10,'; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

`(3) Permitted takings: An activity of a non-Federal person is deemed not to constitute a taking of a species if the activity--

`(A) is consistent with the provisions of a final conservation plan or conservation objective;

`(B) complies with the terms and conditions of an incidental taking permit or a cooperative management agreement;

`(C) addresses a critical, imminent threat to public health or safety or a catastrophic natural event; or

`(D) is incidental to, and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity that occurs within an area of the territorial sea or exclusive economic zone established by Proclamation Numbered 5030, dated March 10, 1983, that is not designated as critical habitat under section 5(m), and the affected species is not a species of fish.'.

What This Means

There's a discussion about Senator Gorton's proposed re-definition of "take" in the Glossary. Reading it helps understand what paragraph (D) really does.

Paragraph (D) says that if you are not setting out to harm members of an endangered species, the fact that something you do kills or maims them is not considered "take", and so is not a violation of the act. If you fish for shrimp and a turtle drowns in your nets, the Act no longer affects you. The turtle is dead, but according to Senator Gorton it won't count as "take."

Paragraph (D) virtually dismantles the Endangered Species Act. If paragraph (D) becomes law, no fishing boat or petroleum exploration project need concern itself with protecting an endangered species. Turtle excluder devices (TEDs), long resisted by the shrimping industry, would no longer be mandatory for boats fishing within U.S. waters. Of course, if the U.S. is not required to use TEDs, there is no reason why other nations would bother. It is extremely unlikely that the United States could continue to require that nations selling shrimp to American markets use TEDs in their shrimp fleets.

As we have pointed out in Threats to Marine Turtles, commercial fishing is a major threat to marine turtles, particularly the Kemp's ridley, even if shrimp boats do use TEDs. Paragraph (D) would, quite literally, doom the Kemp's ridley to quick extinction.

Senate bill S-768 must not be allowed to pass!

Senator Slade Gorton, a Threat to All Marine Life

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Last modified 99/06/05
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