A U.S. District Court in Seattle ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action to protect salmon in the Pacific Northwest from pesticides. The court found the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a legal obligation under the Endangered Species Act to review the impacts of pesticide use and curtail uses that are harmful to salmon. This process begins with a consultation between EPA and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the expert U.S. salmon agency.
“Today’s announcement represents a sweeping victory for both the people and the salmon in the Pacific Northwest,” said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who represented environmental and commercial fishing organizations in the case. “EPA had flouted its legal obligation to stop harmful pesticide uses and the Court put an end to that disregard of the law.”
Erika Schreder with Washington Toxics Coalition added “Pesticides in rivers have been a time bomb for salmon for decades. This decision is a long-overdue first step to defusing that threat and making rivers safe for salmon.”
The court decision, issued by Judge John Coughenour, called EPA’s “wholesale non-compliance” with its Endangered Species Act obligations “patently unlawful.”
Earthjustice represented the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Washington Toxics Coalition, and the commercial fishermen’s organizations Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries Resources.
EPA’s own documents find that current uses for 46 pesticides are likely to result in surface water contamination levels that threaten fish or their habitat. Water monitoring by the US Geological Survey detected fourteen pesticides in salmon watersheds at concentrations at or above levels set to protect fish and other aquatic life. EPA’s findings and the US Geological Survey detections identified 55 pesticides that pose documented threats to salmon.
The Court found that “EPA’s own reports document the potentially-significant risks posed by registered pesticides to threatened and endangered salmonids and their habitat” and that “it is undisputed that EPA has not initiated, let alone completed, consultation with respect to the relevant 55 pesticide active ingredients.”
“The evidence of harm to salmon from pesticides is overwhelming. Finally, EPA will need to act on that evidence,” stated Aimee Code with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.
Glen Spain with Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations applauded the decision, “This is a step towards restoring salmon that could bring back tens of thousands of fishing jobs and a billion dollar industry to our region.”