A federal district court today denied the request by eight environmental and fishing groups to reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections for Oregon coast coho salmon. The ruling came in the first round of an attempt to reverse a September district court decision that removed federal protection from wild coho salmon in Oregon. The court took under advisement a request by the environmental groups for intervention to pursue an appeal. The court's September decision found that coho salmon born and raised in hatcheries must be included with wild coho when considering endangered species status. Scientists have found that hatchery salmon harm wild salmon by introducing disease, changing the genetic make-up, and competing for scarce resources,
Oregon Natural Resources Council, Pacific Rivers Council, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Audubon Society of Portland, Coast Range Association, Siskiyou Regional Education Project, and the Sierra Club, represented in court by Earthjustice, sought to intervene in the case and asked for a stay of the district court ruling so that wild coho salmon continue to be protected while the legal case works its way through the court system.
"The real sad story today is that there is logging going on that harms coho, and the court's decision doesn't address it and allows it to continue," said David Bayles, Conservation Director of Pacific Rivers Council.
While the district judge denied the stay, he ordered further briefing on the issue of whether the environmental and fishing groups could intervene to appeal.
"The bottom line is we are losing native salmon runs up and down the coast, and the ESA recognizes that raising fish in hatcheries is no substitute for the real thing," said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice. "We will wait for the district court's decision and seek review from the court of appeals."
"The National Marine Fisheries Service is missing in action," said Doug Heiken of ONRC. "It is inexcusable that the federal agency has failed to take steps to protect Oregon coho and has tried to keep the public out of this debate."
The eight conservation and fishing groups have worked for wild coho protection for over a decade; many were involved in filing the initial petitions that led to the threatened species listing for coho salmon in Oregon. Since the Oregon coho ruling, opponents of preserving wild salmon have begun efforts to strip Endangered Species Act protections from other wild salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest.
A good article by Robert McClure of the Seattle PI looks at the debate around hatchery versus wild salmon.
Kristen Boyles, EJ: 206-343-7340 x33
Doug Heiken, ONRC: 541-344-0675
David Bayles, PRC: 541-345-0119
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