Court decision bars California from banning sale of Louisiana alligator products

The chairman of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) praised a federal court’s ruling to enjoin California from enforcing the statutory ban on the importation, sale and possession of alligator and crocodile products in the state.

The California law criminalizes the sale and possession of alligator and crocodile parts in California. The ban would have had far-reaching, negative consequences for Louisiana’s huge alligator farming industry, estimated to be worth more than $100 million annually to the state’s economy.

“We are encouraged by the court’s decision. We know this is the first step and not the last. But it gives Louisiana’s vital alligator industry the ability to continue operating in California and beyond,” said Bill Hogan, chairman of the LWFC.

Judge Kimberly Mueller of the U.S. District Court for California’s Eastern District issued the ruling earlier this week, indicating that there are serious questions as to whether federal laws regulating the sale and importation of crocodilian species, preempts the California law, such that a preliminary injunction is warranted. The ruling also found that implementation of the law would cause significant and irreparable economic harm to Louisiana’s alligator industry.

California may appeal the decision.

Louisiana’s alligator industry

The Louisiana Attorney General’s office, representing the LWFC, joined plaintiffs from the alligator industry in filing suit in December of 2019 challenging California’s ban, which had been scheduled to take effect on the first of this year. As a result of these law suits, the court issued a temporary restraining order on December 27, 2019 prohibiting enforcement of the California ban.

If the ban on alligator products had been imposed, Louisiana’s alligator industry would have lost California’s lucrative high-end fashion market for the sale of skins used for shoes, boots and handbags, which is a major source of revenue. It would have also deprived the industry from using California ports as a method of international distribution, specifically to Asia.

Louisiana’s alligator industry, under the guidance of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and its restoration programs, has brought the alligator population from near extinction to nearly 3 million alligators in the wild and on farms in Louisiana.