Challenging the Government’s Hatchery Listing Policy

Earthjustice stalled and eventually reversed an attempt to reduce protection for salmon by forcing scientists to count hatchery fish along with wild ones.

Case Overview

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service adopted a policy that would require fisheries scientists to count hatchery-bred salmon along with the population of wild salmon when making endangered species assessments. Because hatchery salmon are numerous, the intent was to mask the imperiled status of wild salmon and lift the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

Earthjustice sued on behalf of several conservation groups and groups of fishing enthusiasts, and on June 13, 2007, a federal court agreed that the policy was scientifically flawed and inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act.

The government appealed and the decision was overturned, but by that time the new Obama administration had taken office and the drive to eliminate listing policies to reduce protection for rare salmon and steelhead was abandoned.

Working with fertilized eggs in a salmon hatchery.
Working with fertilized eggs in a salmon hatchery. (NOAA Photo)

Case Updates

August 15, 2007 Press Release: Victory

Judge Upholds Endangered Species Protections for Wild Salmon

Developers and farm groups fail to convince judge that hatchery-bred salmon are legally identical to wild salmon

August 14, 2007 document

Salmon ruling 8/14/07

Ruling that wild salmon must be counted separately from hatchery salmon when determining endangered species protections.

June 13, 2007 Press Release: Victory

Judge: Counting Hatchery Salmon as Wild Violates Law

Federal court sets aside controversial Bush administration policy on endangered salmon runs