In the 1950s to 1960s the American crocodile and American alligator (the latter of which are more commonly known to watch people as Alligator mississippiensis) were overhunted to near extinction, with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service placing both on their Federal Endangered Species Act in 1967. In an effort to protect them from being overhunted and trafficked, California law (Penal Code Section 653o) has banned the import or sale of crocodile or alligator parts since 1970.
Since then, the Alligator mississipiensis has been bred through a controlled sustainable programme of farming in conjunction with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service in Louisiana, resulting in their population now booming to historic highs in the wild as well as being farmed. They were taken off the endangered species list in 1987 and the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), taken off in 2007. Since 2006, California has had an exemption and sunset clause that allowed the importation and sale of American crocodile or alligator products.
As stated in Section 1 (f) of AB-527 Importation, possession, or sale of endangered wildlife – “Shortly after receiving federal protection, California law was changed to prohibit commercially available alligator products at a later date. The date on which the sale of crocodile products would be prohibited has been extended three times, and is currently January 1, 2020.”
An amendment to the Penal Code Section 653o in February this year effective on January 1, 2020 will make it a misdemeanor to import, display or sell crocodile or alligator products for commercial purposes.
It states :
SEC. 2. Section 653o of the Penal Code is amended to read:
653o. (a) It is unlawful to import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell, or to sell within the state, the dead body, or a part or product thereof, of a polar bear, leopard, ocelot, tiger, cheetah, jaguar, sable antelope, wolf (Canis lupus), zebra, whale, cobra, python, sea turtle, colobus monkey, kangaroo, vicuna, sea otter, free-roaming feral horse, dolphin or porpoise (Delphinidae), Spanish lynx, or elephant.
(b) (1) Commencing January 1, 2030, it is unlawful to import into this state for commercial purposes, to possess with intent to sell, or to sell within the state, the dead body, or a part or product thereof, of a crocodile or alligator.
In a lawsuit filed on 12 December 2019 in the Eastern District of California, the Louisiana Attorney General’s office argued that “the economic value of American alligators acts as a powerful incentive for private landowners to actively manage and protect wetlands. This management and protection of alligator habitat boosts not only alligators, but a whole myriad of wildlife species.” The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which also intends to sue the State of California, has said that as California makes up 30% of the worldwide alligator market, its ban would cause harm to (jobs in) the industry, species management, and wetland protection.
Alligator hunting is legal in Louisiana.