WASHINGTON— Two Louisiana brothers pleaded guilty today and were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, La., for Lacey Act violations for their role in illegally killing American Alligators in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act and Louisiana law, the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division announced.
According to statements made in court, in October 2005 and in September 2006, Clint Martinez, 44, a licensed alligator hunter, and his brother, Michael Martinez, 47, a licensed alligator helper, guided out-of-state alligator sport hunters who were clients of an outfitter, to areas for which they did not have appropriate state authorization to hunt. In October 2005, the sport hunter clients killed a 10 foot, two-inch trophy-sized alligator. In September 2006, the sport hunter clients killed a 10 foot trophy-sized alligator and a 12 foot, six-inch trophy-sized alligator.
The Martinez brothers, both of Plaquemine, La., were sentenced to serve a three year term of probation during which they will be prohibited from hunting as follows: for one year of the probation the defendants will be prohibited from engaging worldwide in all hunting activities, including guiding, with any kind of weapon; for the remaining two years of probation the defendants will be prohibited from engaging worldwide in all commercial alligator hunting activities, including guiding. In addition, each defendant will pay a $5,000 fine, serve 200 hours of community service, and publish a statement in a newspaper setting forth a brief summary of the offense and its potential penalties, and apologizing for their illegal conduct.
American Alligator hunting is a regulated commercial activity in the state of Louisiana due to severe over-hunting up until the 1960’s, resulting in a drastic population decline. Specifically, the Endangered Species Act prohibits the taking of wild American Alligators unless in compliance with Louisiana’s laws and regulations. Louisiana law requires hunters and helpers to hunt only on property for which alligator tags are issued by the state. Each tag specifies an area where alligator hunting is to occur. By law, licensed hunters and helpers are expected to know what the licensed alligator hunter’s hide tags provide, and hunt only in the area specified for each tag. It is illegal to kill an alligator in an area for which the licensed hunter or helper does not have appropriate hide tags. These regulations setting limitations on alligator hunting have allowed for the alligator population levels in Louisiana to rebound to sustainable levels.
In addition to being listed as a threatened species on the U.S. list of Threatened and Endangered Species, the American alligator also is listed as a crocodilian species on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). To better regulate trade in crocodilian species, the parties to CITES agreed to a program of requiring a uniquely numbered tag to be inserted into the skin of each animal immediately after it is killed. The tag is to remain with the skin as it travels in interstate or international commerce until it is manufactured into a final consumer product. The secretary of the Interior promulgated special rules for American alligators that implement the CITES tagging program and regulate the harvest of alligators within the United States.
The case is being prosecuted by Shennie Patel and Susan Park of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. The case was investigated by the Law Enforcement Division of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.