Commercial fishermen joined forces today with two environmental groups to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failure to protect salmon from the harmful effects of pesticides. The move came as the new EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman prepared to lead the agency. The Northwest groups are suing to ensure that endangered salmon are a top priority for the new administration.
"The ever increasing amounts of hazardous pesticides found in our rivers and streams are a clear sign of EPA failure to protect threatened and endangered salmon," remarked Aimee Code, with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. "Our lawsuit will force the new administration to take responsibility for these unacceptable risks."
United States Geologic Survey's research detected 73 pesticides in Northwest waterways. Thirteen were above criteria set to protect aquatic life. Its most recent study of the Willamette River Basin found pesticides at higher concentrations as compared to earlier testing.
Recent studies by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency charged with salmon recovery, show that pesticides may severely impact salmon survival. There are 24 salmon and steelhead runs threatened or endangered on the Pacific Coast.
Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations Inc said, "Our fishing communities are suffering because of the decline of salmon. Fishing families throughout the Northwest need our government agencies to pull out all the stops to recover salmon."
"EPA has failed completely to get pesticides out of our waterways so they stop harming salmon," said Erika Schreder, with the Washington Toxics Coalition. "We are determined to hold EPA's feet to the fire until the agency does what it takes to protect salmon from pesticides."
The lawsuit challenges EPA's failure to take even the first steps required by the Endangered Species Act to protect salmon from harmful pesticides.
Patti Goldman of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the attorney representing the three groups, stated, "It is time for EPA to make sure that its regulation of pesticides will prevent jeopardizing the survival of listed salmon. It has been ten years since the first salmon were declared threatened. EPA still has done nothing to comply with its duty."
Patti Goldman, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, (206) 343-7340 ext 32
Aimee Code, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, (541) 344-5044 ext 27
Erika Schreder,Washington Toxics Coalition, (206) 632-1545 ext 19
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