A Judge Just Ruled the Trump Administration Has Failed in Protecting the World’s Rarest Marine Mammal

And ordered the government to finally do something about it.

The vaquita porpoiseOmar Vidal/ZUMA

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In a win for environmentalists Thursday, the United States Court of International Trade ruled that the federal government failed its “statutory duty” to protect the critically-endangered vaquita porpoise.

With as few as 15 individuals remaining in the wild, the vaquita is the world’s rarest marine mammal and faces imminent extinction due to gillnet fishing in the Gulf of California, a small body of water about 100 miles south of the US-Mexico border.

In Thursday’s ruling, Judge Gary S. Katzmann ordered the Trump administration to ban the import of fish from “any Mexican commercial fishery that uses gillnets within the vaquita’s range.” Because the vaquita lives in foreign waters, there are small, but critical steps the US federal government must take in a case like this, and banning imports from a harmful industry is one of them, environmentalists argue. 

According to the complaint originally filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Animal Welfare Institute back in March, Trump’s Departments of Commerce, Treasury, and Homeland Security were violating the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and its provisions on foreign fishing practices. As Mother Jones reported in March:

The act mandates that the federal government “ban the importation of commercial fish or products” from countries where fish has been caught with “commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of United States standards.” 

The plaintiffs argue that’s exactly what’s happening here. With such a sharp decline in their population, the vaquita is drowning in the Gulf of California at an “unprecedented rate that far exceeds U.S. standards,” according to the lawsuit.

This week, the court agreed. So, although the case’s outcome is certainly a reason for fans of the rare but adorable animal to celebrate, its future—and the hundreds of other species under attack by the Trump administration—is far from certain. 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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