South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Animals Do Not Have Standing to Sue under Environmental Statutes
Description Appeals court held that suit may not be brought in the name of animals claimed to be injured by sonar used by the U.S. Navy. Animals do not have standing to sue under environmental statutes; only persons authorized by the statutes have standing.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words Endangered Species Act; Marine Mammal Protection Act; Standing
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Cetacean Community was a name chosen by the Cetaceans' self-appointed attorney to represent all the world's whales, porpoises, and dolphins. The Cetaceans sued the government, under their own name, contending that the use of low frequency sonar, which emits pulses or pings that can travel hundreds of miles through water, causes injury to the marine mammals. The Cetaceans sought an injunction under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to order the government to stop using the sonar until its effects can be determined. The district court dismissed the suit. The Cetaceans appealed.

Affirmed. The Cetacean community lacks standing to sue. The ESA and MMPA, as written by Congress, only authorize persons to sue. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are meant to be protected under the statutes; they do not have standing to sue. Suit to protect them must be brought by persons who have standing.

Citation Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169 (10th Cir., 2004)

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