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Fishermen Join Legal Action to Push EPA on Water Pollution Toxic Fish Rules

Fish consumption rates fail to protect fishermen and consumers
August 8, 2013
Seattle, WA —

Today, prominent commercial fishing industry groups joined a coalition of statewide clean water advocates in taking initial legal steps to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fix Washington’s inadequate water pollution rules after years of delay. State water pollution rules are based on outdated and incorrect data about how much fish people eat.

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) and the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR) put EPA on notice it could be sued under the federal Clean Water Act. The commercial fishing groups are joining a legal effort by Waterkeeper’s Washington, a coalition of statewide clean water advocates that sent EPA a similar letter on July 23.

“Salmon need clean water to survive,” said Glen Spain, of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association, the largest trade association of commercial fishermen on the West Coast. “The fact is, excessive amounts of toxic chemicals are getting into our water, poisoning fish and potentially destroying fish-dependent industries and communities. EPA has known about this problem for years and must finally require Washington to adopt a realistic fish consumption rate to protect hard working fishing families and public health.”

PCFFA, IFR—a research-based organization working with PCFFA to protect resources that are critical to the fishing industry—and Waterkeepers Washington are represented by Earthjustice.

“EPA long ago notified the state that Washington’s standard is simply not protective of human health, yet EPA has so far simply watched while the state failed to act.” said Janette Brimmer, an Earthjustice attorney representing PCFFA, IFR and the coalition of clean water groups. “The law is clear—EPA has an obligation to enforce the Clean Water Act and protect Washington residents with an updated fish consumption rate and human health standard where the state has not or will not.”

At issue is a formula for how much water pollution is allowed by the Washington Department of Ecology, based on how much fish people are likely to eat. Washington relies on an outdated system for setting fish consumption rates for water quality that assumes people in Washington eat about one fish meal per month, far less fish than studies show they eat.

For more information, please see the recent Earthjustice press release related to Waterkeepers Washington’s 60 day notice: Clean Water Advocates Push EPA on Washington State’s Toxic Fish Consumption Rules

Contacts

Janette Brimmer, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 1029

Matt Baca, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 1021

Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, (541) 689-2000

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.