Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Lacey Act Amendments of 1981

Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 (P.L. 97-79, 95 Stat. 1073, 16 U.S.C. 3371-3378, approved November 16, 1981, and as amended by P.L. 100-653, 102 Stat. 3825, approved November 14, 1988, and P.L. 98-327, 98 Stat. 271, approved June 25, 1984) These amendments repealed the Black Bass Act and sections 43 and 44 of the Lacey Act of 1900 (18 U.S.C. 43- 44), replacing them with a single comprehensive statute.

Under this law, it is unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants taken, possessed, transported, or sold: 1) in violation of U.S. or Indian law, or 2) in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law.

The law covers all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, and plants protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and those protected by State law. Commercial guiding and outfitting are considered to be a sale under the provisions of the Act.

Felony criminal sanctions are provided for violations involving imports or exports, or violations of a commercial nature in which the value of the wildlife is in excess of $350. A misdemeanor violation was established, with a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 1 year, or both. Civil penalties up to $10,000 were provided. However, the Criminal Fines Improvement Act of 1987 increased the fines under the Lacey Act for misdemeanors to a maximum of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for organizations. Maximum fines for felonies were increased to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations.

Rewards are authorized for information leading to arrests, criminal convictions, civil penalties, or the forfeitures of property, and for payment of costs of temporary care for fish, wildlife, or plants regarding a civil or criminal proceeding. Strict liability is established for forfeiture of illegal fish, wildlife or plants, and marking requirements for shipments of fish and wildlife must conform to modern commercial practices.

Those enforcing the Act are authorized to carry firearms, make qualified warrantless arrests for felony and misdemeanor violations of any law of the U.S. when enforcing the Act, search and seize under Attorney General guidelines, issue subpoenas and warrants, inspect vessels, vehicles, aircraft, packages, crates, and containers on arrival in the United States from outside the United States or prior to departure from the United States.

Amendments to the humane shipment provisions of Title 18 required the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations governing such activity.

As amended May 24, 1949, 18 U.S.C. 42 (63 Stat. 89, September 2, 1960; P.L. 86-702; 74 Stat. 753; and November 29, 1990, P.L. 101-646, 104 Stat. 4772) prohibits importation of wild vertebrates and other animals listed in the Act or declared by the Secretary of the Interior to be injurious to man or agriculture, wildlife resources, or otherwise, except under certain circumstances and pursuant to regulations.

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