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11.1: Policies

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    National and State Laws

    Within many countries there are laws that protect endangered species and regulate hunting and fishing. For example, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973 in the United States. The ESA does not automatically protect species categorized as threatened on the Red List. Instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which enforces the ESA, assesses candidates for protected status as threatened or endangered (figure \(\PageIndex{a}\)). Consideration of candidate species can be initiated by the FWS itself or at the request of the public. Through the Species Status Assessment Framework, the FWS compiles biological data, such as habitat and population information and current threats to the species. This biological data is used to inform decisions.

    A woman takes photos of endangered species in a shallow vernal pool surrounded by vegetation.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{a}\): Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Joanna Gilkeson, takes photos of federally endangered San Diego fairy shrimp in a vernal pool in Otay Mesa, California. Vernal pools are shallow seasonal ponds, and vernal pool species are uniquely adapted to changes in water availability. Image by Maideline Sanchez/USFWS (public domain).

    Once a species is listed, the FWS is required by law to develop a management plan to protect the species and bring it back to sustainable numbers. The ESA, and others like it in other countries, is a useful tool, but it suffers because it is often difficult to get a species listed or to get an effective management plan in place once a species is listed.

    The 1972 Marine Mammals Protection Act prohibits the “take” of marine mammals—including harassment, hunting, capturing, collecting, or killing—in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas. The act also makes it illegal to import marine mammals and marine mammal products into the United States without a permit. 

    State laws can also aid in conservation. Through California Endangered Species Act (CESA), originally passed in 1970 and subsequently amended, the California Fish and Game Commission assesses species to be listed as threatened or endangered by the state. A listed species, or any part or product of the plant or animal, may not be imported into the state, exported out of the state, “taken” (killed), possessed, purchased, or sold without proper authorization.

    Note that endangered is a subcategory of threatened on the Red List, but for ESA and CESA, threatened and endangered are separate categories, with the latter representing at the greater risk of extinction.

    International Agreements

    The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty came into force in 1975. The treaty, and the national legislation that supports it, provides a legal framework for preventing listed species from being transported across nations’ borders, thus protecting them from being caught or killed when the purpose involves international trade. 

    Species can be listed in one of three CITES appendices. Trade is banned for Appendix I species, which are threatened with extinction. For example the trade of ivory is banned by CITES. Trade is regulated for Appendix II species, such as the meat and shells of the queen conch or big-leaf mahogany (figure \(\PageIndex{b}\)). Appendix III species are protected in at least one country, and the local government needs a coordinated response through CITES. For example, several species of red and pink corals have been added to Appendix III at the request of China.

    Big-leaf mahogany trees at a plantation in Maui, Hawaii
    Figure \(\PageIndex{b}\): Big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) timber is used to make furniture, musical instruments, boats, and other products. It listed in CITES Appendix II, meaning that it is regulated. Specifically, a permit is required to ship big-leaf mahogany timber. Image by Forest and Kim Starr (CC-BY).

    Approximately 35,800 species are protected by the CITES. The treaty is limited in its reach because it only deals with international movement of organisms or their parts. It is also limited by various countries’ ability or willingness to enforce the treaty and supporting legislation.

    The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is an agreement between the United States and Canada that was signed into law in 1918 in response to declines in North American bird species caused by hunting. The Act now lists over 800 protected species. It makes it illegal to disturb or kill the protected species or distribute their parts (much of the hunting of birds in the past was for their feathers). Examples of protected species include northern cardinals, the Red-tailed Hawk, and the American Black Vulture.


    Modified by Melissa Ha from the following sources:

    This page titled 11.1: Policies is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Melissa Ha and Rachel Schleiger (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .

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