Seven environmental and fishing groups filed a series of legal measures today aimed at protecting wild coho salmon in Oregon. The groups seek to reverse a federal judge’s ruling that removed federal protection from wild coho salmon in Oregon. While scientists have found that hatchery salmon harm wild salmon by introducing disease, changing the genetic make-up, and competing for scarce resources, the judge’s decision found that coho salmon born and raised in hatcheries must be included with wild coho when considering endangered species status..
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, and Siskiyou Regional Education Project, represented in court by Earthjustice, seek to intervene in the case and appeal the federal district court ruling. The groups have asked for a stay of the district court ruling pending appeal so that wild coho salmon continue to be protected while the legal case works its way through the court system.
“No matter how you look at the situation, we need to protect wild coho and the coastal streams they inhabit,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Natural Resources Council. “It is essential that Endangered Species Act protections remain in place for wild coho and their habitat while the legal case moves forward.”
“The court’s ruling doesn’t make in-the-river sense,” said Tryg Sletteland, chief executive officer of Pacific Rivers Council. “The Endangered Species Act protects the habitats on which fish and wildlife depend. This ruling could result in the absurd situation where wild salmon are allowed to go extinct due to habitat destruction while we “protect” hatchery stocks and their concrete pools.”
The seven 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.
“The Endangered Species Act protects and restores creatures in their natural habitats — in the wild,” said Patti Goldman, an attorney at Earthjustice. “Any other interpretation would be like equating lions in zoos with lions on the Serengeti.”