The Center for Biological Diversity Sues the US Fish and Wildlife Service Over the Release of Proprietary Business Information

December 14, 2016

The following was published on the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) website:

The Issue

The Department of the Interior has been asked to release certain information in its Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) for the year 2005 to the present relating to the import and export of all wildlife specimens to and from the United States. It also provides you with the opportunity to object to the public release of these records if they are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552(b).


In response to these FOIA requests, FWS withheld the “Declared Value of Wildlife” and “Foreign Importer/Exporter” columns in their entirety under FOIA Exemption 4. (FWS withheld additional information under Exemptions 6 and 7(C).) In August, CBD sued the Department, challenging the legality of FWS’s assertion of these FOIA exemptions: Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service No. 16-00527 (D.-Ariz., filed August 8, 2016). Please reference Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. FWS No. 16-00527, in any future communications with FWS regarding this matter.

In Plain English

The Center for Biological Diversity is suing to get the “Declared Value of Wildlife” and “Foreign Importer/Exporter” information on all animals imported into the United States.  The Fish and Wildlife Service is taking comments from affected parties until December 16 on whether or not to release the information. We need those impacted to send comments to the FWS on this matter before the deadline. Although the issue at hand is similar, this is a different lawsuit than Humane Society Int’l v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife.


  • You must explain whether you voluntarily provided the information in question or whether the government required the information to be submitted.
  • Should you assert that you voluntarily submitted the information, you must also explain how the information in question fits into a category of information that you customarily do not release to the public.
  • If you assert that the government required you to submit the information in question, (as is the case for the information at hand), then you must explain how substantial competitive or other business harm would likely result from release.
  • To demonstrate that disclosure is likely to cause substantial competitive harm, there must be evidence that:
    • you face actual competition; and
    • substantial competitive injury would likely result from disclosure.
  • In order for the Department to fully evaluate whether you are likely to suffer substantial competitive injury from disclosure of the withheld information, any objections on this basis must include a detailed explanation of who your competitors are and the nature of the competition.
  • You must also explain with specificity how disclosure of each category of information that you object to disclosing on this basis would provide its competitors with valuable insights into your operation, give competitors pricing advantages over you, unfairly advantage competitors in future business negotiations, or any other information that sufficiently explains the substantial competitive injury that would likely result from disclosure.
  • You must also certify that any information you object to disclosing is confidential, you have not disclosed the information to the public, and the information is not routinely available to the public from other sources.

Submit comments before the Dec. 16 deadline to:



Any comments you submit to the Department objecting to the disclosure of the documents may be subject to disclosure under the FOIA if the Department receives a FOIA request for them, so do not include trade secrets in your letter.

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