A federal district court in Eugene, Oregon today granted eight environmental and fishing groups the right to appeal a case that removed Endangered Species Act protections from Oregon coast coho. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for salmon survival, announced last week that it would not appeal the September ruling that stripped Oregon coast coho of legal protections. The district 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 Association, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Audubon Society of Portland, Coast Range Association, Siskiyou Regional Education Project, and the Sierra Club, represented in court by Earthjustice, will ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency order reinstating the ESA protections so that wild coho salmon continue to be protected while the legal case works its way through the court system.
“We will speak for the fish,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice. “The National Marine Fisheries Service has written off Oregon coast coho by deciding not to appeal and leaving the fish unprotected, but we will not let that happen.”
The delisting decision has given the green light to timber sales in the Umpqua National Forest to go forward on lands that drain into coho spawning streams. This winter’s coho run likely will suffer as a result of this logging.
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.